Presidential shock and awe

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To say the entire world is on edge is to put it mildly. Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, no two days have gone by without some new jolt to our collective system. As one TV host puts it, it has been nothing else, but shock and awe.

We knew, because Trump had indicated since on the campaign trail, that it would not be business as usual if he were to take the chair. But the pace at which the changes have come–fast and furious– have left our heads spinning as we work to get our equilibrium back.

We, in the Caribbean, are holding our breaths as we anticipate his next move and wonder which of his executive orders will have repercussions that will reverberate to our detriment. His immigration ban has so many tentacles that if we manage to evade one or two or three, the others will be sure to get us in the proverbial choke hold.

A case in point: The United States has served as a migration outlet for these islands for as long as we can remember. Caribbean people migrate to the US for a better life. In some of our territories, entire families exist on remittance from the US. Without it life would be virtually impossible.

The ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries is the tip of the iceberg, we have been told. Other countries will be added to the list at some future time.  The question to be asked is will he turn his attention our way? We have in the region our share of Muslims and a number of Caribbean citizens have been identified as joining ISIS.

Donald Trump, if he needs it, and we are not sure he does, has a ready-made excuse to bar our people from entering much less reside in his country. The future of even those with Green Cards is up in the air as was demonstrated over the weekend when even they were detained at airports or denied entry.  For them, these are unsettling times indeed.

Just about now, our political leaders should be getting antsy. One of the observations made following the ban is that the decision by the president will not engender any love for Americans, and those who travel will feel no less safe. People who think they are vulnerable are unlikely to leave the safety of their homeland. It is an open secret that Americans are singled out for special attention by the bad guys. The immigration snafu that we witnessed over the weekend must leave some bitter memories that might have serious repercussions for the safety of Americans. At least, they might reason it to be so.

What will this mean for our tourist industry, given that the USA is one of our biggest source markets? Time certainly will tell. Already, the numbers for this tourist season are down. This ban cannot be good news for hoteliers who are depending on the tourist to arrive by the planeloads nor the workers who depend on them for a living.

Our new cash cow, the Citizenship by Investment Programme, too, will likely feel the cosmic vibrations from the immigration ban. Passports must state the birthplace of the holder.  One of the attractions of our passport is the visa-free access to many countries in the world, and although an Antigua & Barbuda passport does not allow access to the US, it is easier to obtain a visa using our passport than many other countries in the world.

People seeking other nationalities must be considering their options, and though the new immigration policy is likely to make our passport more attractive. It does not necessarily follow that there will be more takers. The options are not limited to this country only. Competition abounds in the region.

Caribbean governments are busy trying to come to terms with what this new American dispensation is likely to mean for their countries. It has, perhaps, not occurred to them that co-ordinated, well thought out responses to whatever Trump throws their way is the best option. After all, Caricom must mean something. Heading off the whirlwind in the person of the new US president is a perfectly legitimate function. Let’s get to it. Time is of the essence.

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