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US dumping of criminals worry Caribbean nations

Ever since US started deporting criminals, deportees are raising the crime graph in the Caribbeans, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2006 20:15 IST

Criminal deportees from North America have been a factor in the new crime wave in Guyana and Caribbean.

Ever since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (which forms part of the Immigration and Naturalization legislation of the United States), a growing number of Caribbean nationals, who had become permanent residents of the United States, are deported back to the Caribbean countries after completing their sentences for crimes they committed while living in the United States.

Some of these persons were convicted for serious crimes which included illegal trafficking and sale of illegal narcotics and crimes of violence, involving in some instances the use of weapons including firearms.

Others were involved in less serious criminal activity, including what can be classified as petty infractions. In all these cases, these persons generally had no criminal records before leaving the Caribbean to reside in the United States.

Many of them also left when they were young children and over the years have lost all family and cultural connections with their homeland.

Back in the Carribeans, they have no means of support and resort to crime. “It is a serious problem here. Our scarce resources are being diverted to fight them,” Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.

Angry at the large numbers of criminal deportees being dumped at their ports, many Caribbean nations raised their objections to the U.S. through Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meetings.

Guyanese leaders say the return of these criminal deportees to their countries of origin may be in accordance with the Immigration legislation of the United States which specifies that US residents who are not American citizens may be deported to their countries of origin. But this law raises several moral and administrative issues.

“First... By sending the criminal deportees back to the Caribbean countries where there are almost no rehabilitation programs to assist them, these countries are being penalised by a State in whose social environment the criminalizing of these persons developed,” says Odeen Ishmael, Guyanese envoy to the US.

Indeed, these persons have already served their time in prison, but they are now sent back by a country where rehabilitation programs exist, to countries which do not have resources to operate such facilities.

“I am of the opinion that the United States has the moral responsibility to rehabilitate these persons who have completed their sentences, since their deviant behavior is a product of the US environment in which, they have resided,” Ishmael said.

Prem Misir, who is media adviser to the Guyanese President, said criminal deportees have been intensively socialized in the criminal fields in the US.

"These deportees are in full possession of their US criminal tool kit. Indeed, their criminal training in a developed society gives them an advantage in the pursuit of criminal activities over Guyana’s local petty home-grown criminals."

Deportees with such criminal backgrounds who are posted back to Guyana and the Caribbean invariably will continue with the criminal lifestyles learnt in the US, he said.

The US authorities deport, individually or by group, immigrant prisoners after they have finished their prison time. Sometimes this job is facilitated by immigrant parents wishing to protect their kids from the defects of the receiving society. They simply chose the easy way of returning them to their country of origin.

"The problem of deportation is tied to the migration problem. The irregular development process of the Caribbean countries for the last few years has caused a non-stop exodus of migrants looking for economic opportunities," said Misir.

According to a New York Times report,nearly 300,000 immigrants were expelled from the US to countries around the world for various reasons (criminal and non-criminal) in the two-year period following legislation in 1996.

Of that figure, 106,000 immigrants with criminal convictions were deported in 1998, a 52 per cent increase over the previous two years.

The countries receiving the majority of those expelled are Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Colombia, Canada and Ecuador.

First Published: Nov 09, 2006 20:15 IST