The issue of illegal immigration has become more prevalent around the globe as people feel the desperation of being suppressed and oppressed in their respective country.
Most naturalized citizens and legal immigrants in the United States are especially offended by the television and other images that we see of illegal immigrant families, especially the children, because they are often shown in cages in detention camps.
We can empathize with their plight because we know that the decision to come to the U.S. was one of the most difficult things that they ever had to do. Job shortages, lack of education and little means to support their families have driven them from their homelands to foreign countries where they are treated as less than human.
Right here in the United States of America, immigrant bashing has become quite commonplace, and so it is not unusual to hear immigrants being referred to as murderers and rapists.
I am sure that many of us — Caribbean-Americans — would be surprised to learn that there are similar immigration situations unfolding in the Caribbean.
According to an article written in “Caribbean News Now,” Ray Chickrie noted that as of July, 8,600 Haitians immigrants have arrived in Guyana and only 13 of them have done so legally.
Chickrie also brought to light the fact that these illegal Haitians were not at all welcomed by their Guyanese brothers and sisters. Newspaper headlines create problems by pointing out that Haiti has one of the highest rates of AIDS and cholera infections and the immigrants may spread these viruses. Such claims are not based on facts because the Haitian migrants have not been examined by a physician.
After all of this labeling and name-calling, the Haitian immigrants seemed to have gotten the message that they are undesirables and so do settle there. They moved on to another country.
Further investigations by the Guyanese later confirmed that the Haitians had moved on to Lethem a bordering Brazilian town and then they were headed toward Suriname. Most of the borders to these countries are unsecured. They do not have the thousands of border security agents like the United States, so it is easy for them to cross over into the Caribbean country of their choice.
The questions that many are asking: Aren’t Guyana, Haiti and Suriname a part of the CARICOM countries? Didn’t CARICOM vote on free trade and travel throughout member countries? Why then are Haitians being rejected when in fact the people who immigrate are usually the educated and financially independent people?
In February 2017 CARICOM held its 28th meeting between heads of states, David Granger, then-president of Caribbean Community, said that he was very pleased to report that the organization had two successful days of discussions and decisions on issues important to moving the CARICOM toward its objectives.
“During the course of our discussions, the Conference of Heads of Government reflected on the importance of the CARICOM ‘brand’, and the pride that we have in our citizenship, citizenry and membership,” said Granger.
“Every citizen of this Community must count; every citizen of this Community has rights, and, wherever our citizens are, they have the right to be treated as Caribbean citizens,” he added. “There is no such thing as a ‘stateless person’ in our Community. There should be no such occurrence as a citizen of a Caribbean state being treated as inferior in any jurisdiction in the Community.”
What happened to this concept of “there is no such thing as a stateless person?” Is it fair that this moral standing gets thrown out in the bathwater when the Haitians need some TLC (tender loving care)? Have our Haitians brothers and sisters not borne enough? We ought to have a little compassion and find a solution, instead of trying to sweep them off to the next country with our biases and two-faced rhetoric.
Most of us are hurt by the resistance to immigrants under the Trump administration. CARICOM countries should say what they mean and mean what they say. This concept of a Caribbean Community United will never work unless we are accepting and inclusive to all the CARICOM countries.