A Stranger in His Homeland

Color Lines, News Feature, Julianne Ong Hing Posted: Oct 26, 2009

Editor's Note: Calvin James was separated from his family when federal immigration agents deported him to Jamaica, where he was born. But in Jamaica, he found himself, not at home, but a stranger after a life spent in the United States. This story is part of "Torn Apart by Deportation," a series investigating the impacts of deportation on families of color and originally published by ColorLines.

When Calvin James stepped off the plane in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2004, it was late. In the dark, he could not make out any of the landmarks he remembered growing up with before he immigrated to the United States as a young boy.

Weeks later, he’d recognize his old school buildings and back alley playgrounds on those Kingston streets. But that first night, he recognized nothing. He never expected to return to Jamaica this way, on a charter flight with other men who, like him, were being kicked out of the U.S.

Deportees exist in an in-between land; they are not tourists, and yet they cannot go back home to the States. That night, James and the other deportees were taken to the central police station for questioning.

It is standard policy for Jamaican police to detain and question upon arrival the several thousand deportees who come every year—“Do you have family you will be contacting? What address will you be staying at? What are your local relatives’ names?”

But James had no one to call.

Like most deportees, he knew of distant relatives in the country, but he had no phone number or address for them. He gave what answers he could to the police and was let go into the streets of the notoriously dangerous Kingston.

“I landed in Spanish Town, in like a battle zone,” James recalled. “And that’s where they leave you. A foreigner don’t make it past a night on those streets.”

Even though he was born in Jamaica, James considered himself a foreigner. He had not been back since leaving for the U.S. when he was 12. He had grown up considering New York his home. After all, it was where his 6-year-old son, Josh, and his long-time partner, Kathy McArdle, were. He spoke very American English, having lost much of his Jamaican patois. Now here he was, 45 years old and exiled to Kingston.

Luckily, James had befriended another man who was on the same charter flight; he ended up staying with his friend for a week after confessing to him he had nowhere to go.

“When I first arrived in Jamaica, I could think about nothing else but, basically, survival,” James said. And yet, every day he missed his family in the U.S.


The same year James was deported from the U.S., Jamaica received 4,118 deportees from various countries, an all-time high. That year, 1,845 were deported from the U.S. alone, according to numbers provided by the Jamaican Ministry of National Security. The rest came mainly from the United Kingdom and Canada.

While the majority of people deported from the U.S. are kicked out for not having papers, another group of immigrants is deported because they have committed crimes like selling drugs or driving under the influence of alcohol. These people are very often legal residents, people who migrated with their families as children and were raised, educated and socialized in the U.S. They have owned businesses, bought homes and raised families of their own in the U.S.

Last year, 360,000 of these “criminal aliens,” as the immigration system calls them, were deported from the U.S.

It wasn’t always like this. But changes in immigration law in 1996 and policy decisions after Sept. 11 made any non-citizen who was ever found guilty of a broad set of crimes automatically deportable. Today, the criminal justice and immigration systems leave no room for the possibility of someone like James, who served time for selling drugs but had since become a respected worker whose life centered on his family, to stay in the country.

And because Blacks and Latinos are arrested, incarcerated and convicted at higher rates than other people, they are the ones at most risk of being deported. Systemic injustices built into the criminal justice system mean that immigration laws impact people of color disproportionately.

Deportees are separated from their families and lose forever their chance to rebuild their lives. Indeed, several Jamaican deportees interviewed for this article described deportation as a “life sentence,” a “death sentence,” an experience akin to “ripping up a flower from its roots and letting the buds fall where they will.”

James and other deportees describe an experience that’s defined by the struggle to make basic ends meet, by a forced social isolation and the desperate longing for family left behind in the U.S. These men and women end up paying with their entire lives for convictions—mostly nonviolent drug crimes—that they only want to leave behind.

Advocates are hopeful the Child Citizen Protection Act, proposed by Congressman Jose Serrano of New York, might curb the number of families who deal with the trauma of this forced separation. The bill would give immigration judges more discretion to consider the effect a parent’s removal from the country would have on a U.S.-citizen child before ordering deportation.

“While the bill is not reform,” admitted Manisha Vaze, an organizer with Families for Freedom, an immigrant defense network based in New York, “it’s definitely a first step to just immigration reform. Because it looks at the immigration system from the eyes of families, and comes from families, not in a top-down, exclusionary process.”

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User Comments

Brittanicus on Oct 26, 2009 at 14:25:51 said:

Sen.Harry Reid D-NV, Nancy Pelosi D-CA, are the drum majors who failed in their objective to stifle the E-Verify law, as continued public outcry positively terminated any chance of that? E-Verification is a sophisticated tool to indirectly deport the 20 to 30 million plus from America? What’s the good of hanging around, if you are going to be verified through a government data base? Simply put! It has a self-deportation mechanism. It\'s time to hold your own governments feet to the proverbial fire? US workers should push to make it mandatory for every business operation, so that if caught employing illegal foreigners they should go to prison. Right now the battle lines have been drawn between--THE AMERICAN WORKERS Vs. A MULTITUDE OF PARASITE BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS AND THE OPEN BORDER LOBBYISTS. The public need to know that Opponents have a vested interest in nullifying E-Verify, so they can resume hiring discount illegal labor

Even our law enforcement is under constant attack, such as Sheriff Joe Ariapo\'s illegal immigrant removal program. Any kind of federal or state legislation is mostly designed to be weakened, so it looks as though our government agencies are working for the US job seeker or even the whole population. Sheriff Joe of Maricopa County, Arizona acknowledged he would finally be ripped away from using 287 G fed law, because its working too good throughout this nation. As citizens and legal residents we must insist of our money-vulnerable politicians that 287 (g) is mandatory for every state and county police agency, that the No-Match-Letter to disclose illegal aliens working in procured US worker jobs and no cut back on ICE workplace sweeps remain in operation indefinitely? The feeble excuse is that Joe is racial profiling, but then we must take into consideration that the whole Southern border has been--ILLEGALLY COLONIZED by foreign nationals, costing states billions of dollars. Such as Obama\'s Democratic leadership secretly trying to enclose language in the public option health care available to illegal immigrants. In the end we all know that illegal immigrants will wheedle their way into health care, because Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, Rep.Charles Schumer and the majority Dem\'s cater to them. It\'s a sorry story when these people get preference over our own people, so it will be a battle all the way? Emergency care! Yes! But not filtering into the American people\'s one chance at Universal health care?

The feral business organizations have been unable to state that E-Verify is racist or profiling by religion or any other adverse criteria, as this piece of software is unable to discriminate In previous court appearances the ACLU, Council of Foreign Relations, the Associated Builders and Contractors, Immigration attorney Associations, the Society for Human Resource Management, the American Council on International Personnel, and the HR Policy Association, and a mishmash of open border groups has stumped themselves for some way to delay implementation of the E-Verify program? The 15 million unemployed citizens and legal residents now know who are the enemy that we are up against? The American public must stop the demand for the unceasing influx of impoverished labor for these companies?

Everybody who needs to hire illegal labor should be identified, just as large businesses are exposed by ICE agents.
Mandatory implementation of E-Verify should not just for federal contractors/subcontractors are should be propagated for everybody who wields a wrench, a pen, a computer or anything else in the diversified working space? In other words--IT SHOULD BE FOR EVERY WORKER, MANAGER, and SUPERVISOR OR EXECUTIVE IN THIS COUNTRY? The magnet is businesses that draw the illegal cheap job-hunters across the borders into the clutches of exploiting employers. I have heard from countless US workers, who have been dropped to make way for cheaper labor in every category of jobs, including higher career positions. Even day labor sites such as Home Depots, Lowes or anywhere these people congregate should be also verified through an E-Verify portable application. Small contractors or a
American employers should--ONLY--be able to solicit for highly skilled tradesman and proven scientists and engineers, under the eye of government labor departments. Europe has adopted a method of selecting specialty workers through a points system that is also being used by other industrialized nations.

United Kingdom first introduced a point’s based system in 2002 called the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). Immigrants can come to the British Islands under this scheme without a sponsor or previous job offer if they can score enough points based on age, education, and past earnings. Australia uses its General Skilled Migration program to attract migrants from across the globe to help alleviate labor shortages, both in trade occupations and highly skilled professional occupations. Canada Potential immigrants can score points based on previous education (both University and Trade school qualifications). New Zealand immigration authorities assess immigrants chances of success based on their occupation and whether it conforms to what the country deems to be future growth areas and sectors experiencing labor shortages. Other countries, such as Germany and France, require a job offer and other stringent requirements for migrants from outside the European Union.

American workers have been paying a price for at least two decades, because thousands of companies had resisted paying for health care? Instead maimed workers especially in manual forms of labor are carted to the nearest emergency hospital for treatment, so the outcome being the employer is resolved from any responsibility and the taxpayer absorbs the medical debt. WHEN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE FORCE OUR INCOMPETENT POLITICIANS TO INTRODUCE E-VERIFY AS A PERMANENT ADDITION TO THE IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT ARSENAL, ILLEGAL ALIENS WITHOUT JOBS WILL LEAVE IN DROVES. But their must be substantial penalties for--NOT--using E-Verify, such as heavy fines and prison for many violations.

Internal ICE enforcement on a grand scale must become a daily event, as they investigate violations within the working communities. ONE CERTAIN WAY TO HALT THE ILLEGAL ALIEN INVASION, IS BY CHANGING THE CIVIL LAW TO CRIMINAL AS A CLASS ONE FELONY FOR ENTERING AMERICA WITHOUT PERMISSION AS IN SENSIBLE FOREIGN COUNTRIES?

A new poll by Zogby International has found people across our border believe an amnesty that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants would prompt more people to enter the U.S. illegally, the Center for Immigration Studies (CRS) stated. Another new survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports reveals that 56% of Americans say that federal immigration policies encourage illegal immigration, and 64% believe that local law enforcement should conduct raids in places where illegal aliens gather to find work. Only 19% opposed the raids compared to 24% who opposed such raids back in April.


Then we have Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, a Democrat from Chicago, has been on the road most weekends since last December trying to beckon people towards forging a favorable immigration reform package. However, it seems --IF--the bill ever becoming a reality while millions of Americans are without work or given up hoping to find a job, the financial impact will be overpowering--as well as insane. VIEW THE LIST OF LAWMAKERS WHO HAVE SIGNED ON TO COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM AT tinyurl.com/CIR-letter-to-POTUS. THESE CONGRESSMAN/ WOMEN WANT TO STEAL YOUR JOB AND GIVE IT TO ILLEGAL ALIENS? KEEP THEM EMBOSSED IN YOUR MEMORY AND UNSEAT THEM WHEN THEY COME FORWARD FOR RE-ELECTION.

Call and blast your Senators and Representative at 202-224-3121 in Washington. Jamming the switchboard with your calls, as it is having an outstanding effect of--MILLIONS of angry voters on legislators. THEY ARE BEGINNING TO LISTEN AND REACT? INFORM THEM TO DO THEIR DUTY OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES ON RE-ELECTION DAY? Tell them you want PERMANENT E-Verify for--EVERY WORKER, a secure double layer fence and--REAL--enforcement against sanctuary state policies. Only citizens and legal residents--MUST--be counted in the 2010 Census--ILLEGAL ALIENS MUST BE EXEMPT. Read undisclosed facts, statistics and lawmakers immigration enforcement grades of politicians at NUMBERSUSA. UNEARTH the corruption in government at JUDICIAL WATCH. Your voice is needed to halt OVERPOPULATION and American Worker survival. Demand NO-MORE-AMNESTIES. They should--GO--home and come through the front door, like millions of honest legal immigrants? Report any irregularities in your workplace to ICE. Be a patriotic American, Whistle-Blower and inform of illegal activity to ICE. Your job--COULD BE NEXT?




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