By Michael Benjamin
Guyanese, it would seem, are prepared to do almost anything to migrate to America. It matters not to them that they would be squatting in another country devoid of an identity; it matters not that their very existence would be fraught with danger as at any point they could be rounded up by FBI agents or the police and unceremoniously dumped into their country of birth, forever debarred from returning to the USA.
These are clear and present dangers of nationals that transgress the laws of the USA yet on a daily basis some of our people risk life, limb and integrity to reach to the promise land.
Some part with staggering amounts to get to the USA through the popular ‘back track’ routes. Yet others manage to procure a non immigrant visa, ignore the statutes and violate the principles of the visa.
A popular story making the rounds was of a Guyanese man who wanted to go to the USA so badly that he was prepared to do just about anything to achieve his goal. He eventually got an opportunity after a well arranged visa wedding with a woman whom he scarcely knew.
Upon exiting the departure lounge at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timerhi, he kissed the ground and loudly proclaimed, “Over my dead body am I returning to this God forsaken country. True to his word he returned some six months later—in a body bag, the victim of a botched drug deal.
From China to Japan, Ethiopia to Hong Kong, Guyanese are in every nook and cranny of the world, doing just about anything to eke out a living. Ask these very Guyanese to contribute their labour and ingenuity to national development and they would adamantly refuse. It leaves one to ponder on such attitudes and maybe only a scientific research process would be able to explain this anomaly.
Recently, I ventured into the American Embassy to address some visa issues. I looked around and observed the droves of Guyanese that were soliciting immigrant and non visas. Some left the interviewing cubicles with large smiles plastered upon their faces while the glum expressions of others told the sad story.
Indeed, almost everyone wishes to have a bite of the apple one day, whether through the front or the back door.
While I waited for some attention from the interviewing officer my eyes roved the building and settled upon a poster that hung from one of the walls in the embassy that proclaimed, “Illegal entry to the USA would open many doors (and here they depicted the prison doors) but will close this door (here they depicted the flag of the USA).
The influx of Deportees back to these shores after they would have violated the American laws are not having the desired effect on many Guyanese nationals and many local continue to fork out astronomical sums to procure an illegal document or take the ‘back track’ route that will land them into ‘the land of plenty.’
Many leave without a structured plan; some without even the requisite skill to propel them to new horizons, yet they venture into a country that experiences four seasonal changes and with different cultural adaptations, in search of, as my mother would succinctly proclaim, ‘what they did not put down.’
Ironically, while Guyanese nationals migrate to North America, Europe and other Caricom countries among others, nationals of other countries are arriving in Guyana in droves seeking residential status. The Brazilians have literally transformed the heart of Georgetown into a little Sao Paulo while the Chinese are deeply entrenched into the Guyanese society.
Other Caribbean nationals find comfort within these 83,000 square miles yet Guyanese continue to sprint to other countries in search of a more qualitative life.
Every year, a plethora of young people graduate from the University of Guyana with Degrees, Bachelor of Law Certificates, distinctions in Social Work, Public Management and a host of other prestigious academic accolades, only to return to the breadline.
The influx of motor vehicles have opened up the transportation industry and many UG graduates turn to this venture to put food on their family’s table and ensure the bills are paid. The dreams of high profile jobs after attaining one’s degree or Post Grad certificate remains a myth.
Recently, one of my colleagues here at Kaieteur News drew my attention to an issue on one of the family courts in the USA. It appears as though a young Guyanese man, now resident in the USA, while on vacation to Guyana, became friendly with a young lady and they decided to get married.
Having consummated the union, the young man commenced immigration processes to have his wife with him. This was accomplished within one year. However, upon arrival into the USA the scenario changed. The situation backfired as all loveless ‘visa weddings’ are wont to do. The two were to end up in The People’s Court’ before Judge Marilyn Milian even as the Guyanese woman revealed that she had another matter of wrongful imprisonment, orchestrated by her husband, pending in another court.
Dirty linen swung in full public view as these two Guyanese exhibited their wares like no other national can. As the young woman later explained to the judge, “all he gave me since I come up here was one hundred dollars.” She also spoke of the unsanitary conditions under which she was compelled to live.
Another aspect of the woman’s actions was revealed later on in the case. It appeared that she had coerced the young man to sponsor her children to join her in the USA. Apparently, her spouse had agreed but somewhere between the agreement and the court proceedings, had a change of heart.
The issue then became very muddled as accusations were bandied around and during the smutty proceedings one thing was for sure—Guyana had once again earned a place on the international scene, albeit distasteful.
It mattered not to the couple that the spin off would have depicted this country in the worst vein. Getting to the USA at any cost was the ultimate aim for the woman. The mission has been accomplished and irrespective of their lowly statuses while in the ‘land of plenty,’ some Guyanese believe that once they land in the USA they are in a better place than home.
Despite the stories of hardships, scarcity of jobs and a downturn in the American economy many Guyanese still nurture deep hopes of living in the USA. Many have been fed a healthy diet of the rags to riches episodes coming out of those parts. Naturally, they would want to be a part of it.
These very persons would land in the USA and take up security jobs, become sanitation workers and engage in all types of menial jobs without a mode of embarrassment.
Back in Guyana they would not be caught dead behind ‘Hang on Sloopy’ as the garbage trucks are dubbed, despite the fact that they are not qualified for other prestigious jobs.
Many Guyanese who would frown at accepting a watchman job in Guyana develop a change of heart upon landing at the JFK Airport.
Naturally, there are two sides to the issue. The argument that hard labour in Guyana may not reap the concomitant benefits might just hold enough water to stand. The question is, should we run to other places and be satisfied with second or even third class statuses or do we fight the good fight to enact relevant changes?
Must we live our lives like itinerant citizens or do we aspire to change the status quo?
These are just a few questions that may be swirling in the heads of citizens as elections draw near. One man (or woman), one vote is the order of the day but each individual must think deeply before casting their ballots.
One of the most pivotal questions to ask is, will my choice inspire the relevant changes that I seek? Can the politicians of my choice turn the Guyanese economy so that I will be less compelled to ‘backtrack’ to other foreign countries?
What about housing—are the policies intact that I will feel inspired to own my dream home?
The months that lead up to elections must be those of introspection and debate; they must be months of intense questions and honest answers.
At the conclusion of the process citizens must, unlike the man depicted at the start of this article, kiss the ground and proclaim, “Over my dead body am I prepared to leave these shores.”
Only then can the process of development commence.
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