Since 1996, one in 24 Jamaican legal permanent residents have been deported. Why are so many Jamaicans being deported?
Jamaicans are much more likely than other immigrants to be deported. Since 1996, about 100,000 of the 12 million legal permanent residents in the United States have been deported. About ten percent of them have been Jamaican, yet Jamaicans make up less than two percent of all legal permanent residents.
Jamaican legal permanent residents are people who travel to the United States with the intention of staying. Deportation cuts their plans short, and puts them in a precarious position. A migrant who is temporarily in the United States and intends to return to his or her country of origin is likely to maintain ties with his home country and send home money to ease his reintegration into his home society. In contrast, a person who comes to the United States and does not plan to return to their home country makes no plans to return. For this person, deportation can be devastating.
This is the situation that tens of thousands of Jamaicans find themselves in: they never planned to return, and have to struggle to figure out how to survive when they are forcibly returned.
The grave consequences of deportation for legal permanent residents mean that this is not a matter to be taken lightly. And, when one ethnic group such as Jamaicans is targeted more than others for deportation, this issue deserves scrutiny.
In my conversations with 37 Jamaican deportees, I have found that Jamaican legal permanent residents are often deported after being racially profiled by a police officer. For example, they are pulled over by a police officer in a routine stop and their car is searched. Alternatively, they are stopped and frisked on a street corner and drugs are found on their possession. Of course, they would not be charged with a crime and then deported if they did not have drugs on their person or in their vehicle.
However, studies consistently have shown that, although whites are more likely to use and sell drugs, blacks are more likely to be punished for drug crimes. Thus, although many legal permanent residents use drugs, only a few are deported. Since 1996, about 100,000 of the 12 million legal permanent residents in the United States have been deported. Many, many more of them have used or sold drugs.
It will come as no surprise to those familiar with racial inequities of drug law enforcement in the United States that black immigrants such as Jamaicans are more susceptible to being arrested and punished for drug crimes than other, non-black immigrants.
The fact that Jamaicans are deported in addition to being arrested and jailed adds a new dimension to the study of racism in the criminal justice system. A felony conviction makes life in the United States difficult. However, for many Jamaican legal permanent residents, deportation from the United States makes living in the country where all of your family and friends live nearly impossible.
TANYA GOLASH-BOZA is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. She blogs at http://stopdeportationsnow.blogspot.com