September 16, 2009

Father of 12 US Citizen Children Deported after Forty Years in the US

Alberto grew up in a fairly well-off family in Uptown, Kingston. He earned a full merit-based scholarship to attend Kingston College – a prestigious high school in Kingston. He had to give up his full scholarship, however, when he was 15, as his parents decided to migrate to the US in 1969. His mother went first, as a legal permanent resident, and he, his father, and his brother followed soon afterwards.

Alberto’s plane descended into New York City at night in October of 1969, and he was impressed by all of the lights that shone from the city. They arrived in Brooklyn at night, and he couldn’t wait until the morning to see what the city looked like. When he awoke to dirty streets, full of trash, with people drinking on the corner, he was a bit disillusioned. His neighborhood in Kingston had looked better.

School was also different – the kids dressed funny and the courses were less rigorous. Alberto wore wool pants and a button up shirt, as he did in Jamaica. The other kids had on bell-bottoms and platform shoes. He said they laughed at him, and he laughed at them. The schoolwork was also quite a bit easier than what he had been accustomed to in Kingston.

Although school was easy, and Alberto was doing well, he decided to drop out. He was growing dreadlocks, and his mother disapproved. Unwilling to compromise, he moved out of her house and had to find work. He worked a brief stint in a lab at NYU, yet decided to learn a trade instead. He tried his hand at a few trades, and finished a welding program.

Soon after moving out on his own, Alberto moved in with a woman who had a nine-month old baby. He took her child as his own, and they eventually had three more children together. He also had eight more children with other women, for a total of 12 children under his care. He didn’t live with all of them, but told me he supported his kids when he was in the US. Today, most of his children are grown. But, he has two that are still quite young. He confided to me that, when he was deported, his girlfriend began to have problems, and his two youngest kids are now in foster care. He regrets deeply that he cannot do anything to help his children from Jamaica. He doesn’t want to return to the US illegally and live like a fugitive. He also doesn’t want his kids in that precarious situation.

In the US, Alberto worked for a few years as a welder, and then got involved in the music industry. He is a bass player, and played with a reggae band in New York. This meant that he was often around people who smoked and sold marijuana. He told me he was arrested and charged with marijuana distribution, yet was not guilty of the charge. Nevertheless, he was convicted and sentenced to prison. After serving his sentence, he was a free man, and forgot about his past troubles.

In 2007, Alberto was awakened at 5am in the morning to the sound of loud knocking at the door. Alberto opened the door and saw police agents. They asked Alberto if he had called to report a robbery. He said he hadn’t; he was sleeping. As they were talking in the doorway, and Alberto was barely dressed, he invited them to come in, so he wouldn’t feel the cold. Once the officer stepped inside, a dozen or so officers showed up and began to search the place. Alberto saw they were ICE agents and told them that searching the house was not necessary; if they wanted to deport him, he was ready to go. The ICE agents arrested Alberto and took him to a detention center, where he spent five weeks before being deported to Jamaica.

Alberto had been in the US for nearly 40 years. He told me when he got off the plane, he took out his American chip and put in his Jamaican chip, and that is how he has been able to get by in Jamaica. Alberto is relatively fortunate for two reasons. First, his parents built a house in Jamaica, so he had somewhere to go. Secondly, he had about $4,000 in savings that he has been drawing on slowly for the past two years to get by in Jamaica.

Alberto regrets what has happened to his children and his family in the US, but sees himself as fortunate that he has a roof over his head in Jamaica, and that most of his children are grown up. He is a bit worried, however, as his savings are nearly depleted, and he has not been able to find work.

He has met up with a few other musicians and they are working on getting a band together. He has high hopes for the band, and thinks he will be able to make it in Jamaica. After forty years abroad, he accepts that he is Jamaican, and this is his land. “Jamaica is somewhere,” he told me, “Jamaica is not nowhere.”

(Please ignore this last line .... I am claiming this blog on Technorati and have to include this code: w3iq69fu7n )

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