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US Jamaican immigrants fear for future after Trump win

PROTEST: Donald Trump’s opponents say he made racist remarks about black people throughout his presidential campaign

WHEN PRESIDENT- elect Donald Trump made his now infamous speech outlining his immigration policy back in August in Phoenix, his stance became abundantly clear.

His administration intends to clamp down on illegal immigration and tighten the threshold for those who will be eligible for entry into the US.

According to Trump, lack of control over immigration is one of the things that prevents America from being ‘great’.

AFTERMATH

Rather like Britain and its pre-and post-Brexit anti-immigration rhetoric, here in the US there’s plenty of talk about them ‘taking all of our jobs’. In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s victory, undocumented Hispanics, Mexicans and Latinos have been the subject of national debate in terms of what his presidency might mean for them.

This should come as no surprise, given his past, scathing verbal onslaughts about those groups. Trump has repeatedly referred to this group as ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’.

When two brothers were arrested in Boston for beating up a homeless Latino man, Trump said they were 'passionate'. He's also made racist remarks about black people throughout his campaign and has won the support of the country’s white supremacists whom, incidentally, he has refused to really condemn.


CLEAR: Trump has stated that he wants to deport immigrants from the US

Though Trump has appeared to vastly tone down his divisive language since winning the election, the country’s African and Caribbean immigrant population are increasingly worried that his presidency will affect their lives.

This is a community that has long borne the brunt of some of the country’s harshest legislation, such as the ‘stop & frisk’ measures which effectively equate skin colour with criminality. Jamaicans are included in this group. Data from the Pew Research Centre shows that they account for 100,000 of the unauthorised immigrant population in the US.

After the outcome of last year’s election, many are concerned for either themselves, their undocumented loved ones or friends, and have compelling reason to believe that they might be deported.

I visited Fort Lauderdale and Miami in South Florida to gauge the mood among black and ethnic voters following Trump’s election victory. Florida has a population of nearly 250,000 legal Jamaican immigrants living in the state, the second highest in the United States outside New York. Many of the people we spoke to expressed fear about their future and hoped that Barack Obama would be able to pass some form of legislation to protect immigrants before leaving office.

I witnessed an interesting conversation with a group of Jamaicans who had relocated to Fort Lauderdale and, I later learned, were not all naturalised or authorised to remain in the US. It became evident, from listening and asking a few questions of my own, that much is at stake for many of them.

QUESTIONS

The discussion began when one member of the group playfully teased their friend for forgetting to do something and quipped, “your mind must be all over the place, like Trump winning the election the other day. You’re shocked!” This was met with laughter that was quickly eroded by a sobering, thoughtful silence. Taking ‘bad thing, mek joke’ is a coping mechanism for many Jamaicans. That is, the initial instinct to make light of a pressing situation before analysing it at greater, more serious length.

A few moments passed before another participant, with a confident swagger, rhetorically declared: “Do you think that Obama, as a black man, will really leave office without passing a law to stop Trump from get- ting rid of all of the illegal immigrants, as he says he’ll do?” Murmurs of agreement ensued.

Wouldn’t that be the day? When a benevolent politician or agent of law, may wave a proverbial wand and come to the immediate rescue of the disenfranchised groups at the fringe of society. Alas, politics is far from ideal and the fact that Obama is a mixed raced man doesn’t gift him with that ability.

Though he is involved in the process – he does not create and pass bills [which then become laws]; a remarkably white- washed Congress does. How much has he lobbied for black rights in front of his colleagues and peers, like many of his critics ask? I do not know; nor do many others. He’s not as pivotal in decision-making as people may think.

PROSPECTS

Cross-referencing the information relayed in this conversation with results from a survey I carried out in the neighbouring districts, it became evident that the main reason for mass migration from Jamaica to the US in the first place was to seek better economic prospects to support relatives back home. Deportation will deprive all parties of this income – causing a ripple effect, and with the state of Jamaica’s economy and lack of job opportunities, many feel that they would be unable to find adequate means of financial support themselves by
going back. In light of this information, what are undocumented migrants going to do about the situation?

While some of the people I spoke to are waiting to see if Obama will come to their rescue before Trump’s inauguration in just over a week, others are hoping it will blow over, not really knowing where to begin to start getting their papers sorted. There are a few fortunate ones who speak of downing tools to return to Jamaica, but not many because of the prospects that face them upon returning.

Those who can will seek to either become naturalised or get the appropriate papers as soon as possible, consolidating their right to remain in their awakening. While protecting families was a stated priority for Clinton, protecting Americans is Trump's. There's a hefty price that those who leave their birth countries in search of a better life have to pay.

It's a hell of a situation, hell being the operative word, because one of the reasons why Jamaica is in economic difficulty is because of it's Faustian pact with the International Monetary Fund - of which the US is huge part. Look it up.

Trump's desire to look into immigration is not the core problem here. At the end of the day, legislation and processes must be reviewed from time to time to ensure its functionality. Rather the issue is the way he has pledged to go about it and his obvious disdain for immigrants. It smells personal and, with these types of policies, things could get ugly.

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