Jamaicans go into hiding as news of sweeping deportation raids

United States President Donald Trump’s announcement last week of impending sweeping deportation raids beginning on Sunday has rattled communities across the North American country, sending several undocumented immigrants, including Jamaicans, into lockdown.

As heightened levels of fear gripped immigrants on the weekend in anticipation of mass sweeps by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), two Jamaicans – one living in the US for 15 years and another for nine – have related to our news team how they have been forced to make dramatic changes to their routines, locking themselves away from even relatives to limit the chances of falling into the dragnet.

Miguel* told The Gleaner that although he was an avid partygoer, he opted to relocate and remain indoors this past weekend.

“Mi deh a farin nine years and live a New York fi five years. Dem say dem a start Sunday, but me mek sure stay in from Friday night because me nuh believe dem would a come and mek people know. Dem probably start a day before, so me nuh tek no chance,” he said. “Party miss mi Saturday. A New York this, and if you want catch people without documents, a party yuh guh. Mi stay home and avoid any raid.”

Miguel told our news team that he has tried unsuccessfully to legalise his stay in the United States.

“Mi was on the verge to married, but it never pan out, so mi just a begin fi try again. It nuh as easy as some people mek it sound,” he reasoned.

Vincent*, who has been living illegally in the US since 2004, told The Gleaner that he avoided going to work this past weekend out of fear that the touted raids would stretch to his place of employment.

“Mi nuh normally miss weekend, but wid all weh mi hear a gwaan, I never show up, and my boss understands why. Is a Syrian mi work for, and people know a dem employ the most illegal immigrants a New York. So where yuh think the Feds would look? I not taking any chances,” he said.

Vincent said that despite settling in the US illegally, he has been a “good citizen”.

“Mi nuh trouble people. Mi go mi work and get mi pay. Mi send back a likkle change come a Jamaica when mi can. Mi just a gwaan live,” he said.

He admitted that the president’s announcement drove terror into him.

“Right now, a di most mi ever fear being sent back home. Trump a try get re-elected and so him will do anything ya now,” Vincent told The Gleaner.

While he also was unsure of exactly where or when the raids would happen, he was not taking any chances.

“Mi can’t go back a Jamaica right now, and me nuh young enough to find love. Mi can work, and a dat me a do here,” he said.

Vincent said that checks yesterday had not yet turned up news of any of his associates being nabbed in the raids.