The Antiguans are coming! The Antiguans are coming!

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If you follow news from America, even in the least, you would have noticed that one of the dominating topics is immigration.  The newly minted president, Donald Trump, is adamant that America is overrun with illegal immigrants, and he is determined to rid the country of that scourge.
In response, there has been a huge backlash from the more liberal and historically minded, pro-immigration side that rejects the president’s view of America and proclaims that it is, in fact, un-American.  They point out that the United States of America is a land that is built on immigrants and the president, whose family is composed of immigrants, should recognize the value of immigrants to the history and prosperity of the United States.
Of course, they also point out that the President’s own Slovania-born wife, Melania Trump, who emigrated to American in 1996, would be caught up in the immigration net and would have likely been deported if the President’s immigration actions were in place during her early years in New York.
While causing an uproar in the United States, the President’s chilling anti-immigrant stance has huge implications for the Caribbean and our bit of paradise.  “Huge” is actually an understatement, because the repercussions of dozens, scores, or hundreds of deportees hitting our shores on a regular basis have the real possibility of unleashing a tsunami of crime and other social and economic impacts.
We must take our hats off to Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua & Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United Nations for ringing the alarm bell early.  He has warned Antigua & Barbuda and the Caribbean to be prepared to accept an influx of deportees as the Donald Trump administration widens the net for immigration deportation.  He and US-based Antiguan Immigration Attorney, Ralph Bowen have both suggested that the matter should be taken very seriously, particularly in light of a communication from Homeland Security which indicates that undocumented immigrants will be picked up and that new officers will be employed to do so.
Sir Ron has advised government to put receptive measures in place, saying “We have got to know who these people are; we are talking the criminal elements now. We have got to make arrangements for how they are received in Antigua, how they are monitored and integrated into society in some kind of orderly way.”
We hope that the powers that be take Sir Ron and Mr Bowen seriously and take measures to address this situation before, and not after, it becomes a huge problem.  Ironically, Sir Ron’s alarm reminds us of the infamous midnight ride of Paul Revere who carried the message to the militia and Patriots that “The English are coming!” during the American Revolution.
Donald Trump is casting a wide net to capture the “bad hombres” in America and that means that the numbers to be deported to our shores will likely increase tremendously.  It does not take much to imagine the impact to our society if we begin receiving an influx of people that have few ties to Antigua & Barbuda except for a birth paper.
Consider the career criminal who has honed his/her skills in America and may have left when he/she was a small child.  They return to a paradise with little or no family or support and are left to fend for themselves.  They have committed no crime here, so they are free to roam among us with no supervision.  Jobs are hard to come by, plus our passive, laid-back lifestyle are inviting to criminals.  It is almost and invitation to take the easy road of crime.  We could go on with the hypothetical story, but you get the point, and suffice to say that it would be like ‘shooting fish in a barrel’.
Chief Immigration Officer Annette Mark has sought to temper the situation, and told OBSERVER media that a standard policy is in place to deal with deportees, especially those who would have committed offences abroad.  Fair enough, but we are fairly certain that the policy has a limit that is determined by available resources.  For example, we have been informed that Antigua & Barbuda received less than 20 deportees in January.  Is that at or near the limit of our policy and processes?  Could we receive 50 or 100 on a regular basis?  The US is ramping up to deport as many as they can, so shouldn’t we ramp up to receive?  It’s not like we can turn away citizens at the border.
Sir Ron stated that the US-based Caricom ambassadors met in Washington and discussed a joint response to the possible mass deportations.  He said, “The approach, while it has to be spearheaded by ambassadors in Washington, will need some support as well from ministers in the Caribbean, particularly ministers responsible for security, because a huge overlay in the Caribbean of criminals and sudden influx of criminals in the region is something that have to be monitored by the security forces.”
We think that Sir Ron is being overly diplomatic.  This situation requires more than just a talk-shop meeting and show of support from the minister responsible for security.  This has the potential of causing such social and economic upheaval that it would dwarf any of our recent natural disasters.  From our perspective, this requires the assembly of the heads of government in an extra-ordinary meeting to discuss the issues and devise concrete plans for dealing with the coming tsunami.
Sir Ron has raised the alarm; the question is: how will our Caribbean governments react?

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