It was a small story hidden away in the pages of Kaieteur News. It was about the number of visitors’ visas granted to Guyanese. The story did not tell me about the numbers of people refused because the reporter did not deign to match the figures to the percentage. All the story said was that more than half of the people who applied for US visas were rejected.
This is nothing new. The consular officers have long been wary of Guyanese. They see us as people who are reluctant to pay our taxes and for the American, that is a no no. Certainly, if we have a habit of tax dodging then we will take that to any country where the residents pay their taxes and reap the rewards.
One habit we do have is to offer an incentive to people who do something for us. If a clerk is to provide us with a birth certificate the clerk expects an inducement and we feel duty bound to provide that inducement. Many of us have gone to the United States with that same attitude and have paid for that.
Just this past week the American press released a story of more than 100 Guyanese who devised a scheme to fleece the system. They made fake credit cards and in the end they milked some $13 million from the system. Some have gone to jail but the administration is not going to forget that the culprits were Guyanese.
They are also going to remember Edul Ahmad who fashioned another scheme that saw many people losing their homes, among them some Guyanese. Ahmad is a Guyanese.
Still fresh in the minds of the Americans are the many petty drug dealers who hail from this country. By force of habit many Guyanese tend to gain employment at the airport. On quite a few occasions the American authorities have been able to nab dozens of Guyanese airport employees whom they said were engaged in drug smuggling.
At the lower end of the scale there have been the illegal immigrants. Many of them left Guyana because of the lure of big dollars and a better life. The reality is often something else. Many of these are people in pursuit of an honest living but there are always the raids. They are caught up and deported, often landing in their home country worse than when they left.
Fortunately, the vast majority of Guyanese who enter North America are very skilled. They make a name for themselves and in the process make Guyana proud. These are the nurses and doctors and teachers all of whom would have helped Guyana further along.
I have met quite a few and they all say the same thing. “I should have made this move a long time ago.” But for all that they still look back home. A few nights ago I was with a group of them and I had to keep answering questions about crime in Guyana.
Indeed the likelihood of one of them being affected by a criminal activity is much less than where they now live. Many of them refuse to believe me because they claim that they all had friends who visited Guyana and ended up being robbed.
But if the truth be told, those who were robbed were those who flaunted their so-called wealth. Some of them had friends who knew of their coming and boasted to all who would listen that Mr X was coming home and that he had so very well in the States.
The major difference is the rate of response to crimes and other disasters. I happened to be frying some bacon. I put the pan on the fire and simply forgot it because I was caught up in some computer issues. When I caught myself I simply dropped the bacon in the pan. The ensuing smoke set off the alarm which I could not shut off.
Within two minutes I got a call from the alarm company. I tried to explain but I had to give the password. My sister had changed and had not told me the new one. Five minutes later two fire tenders were outside the house. Needless to say, I was embarrassed.
It is the same thing with serious crimes. In less than ten minutes squad cars would be at the scene of the crime. In Guyana the response time is so much longer and it is this that serves to give the visitor that sense of helplessness. In the United States they are attacked but the police response is quick. In Guyana they feel exposed. We cannot help that.
But I did tell my friends that in recent times the police have actually reached the scene before the criminals could escape; that things are on the improve.
I saw a letter by Leon Suseran talking about the kind of welcome he got from an immigration officer. I can tell him that not every Guyanese got such a welcome, that it depends on the officer and on what is on the files of the Guyanese. I have met Guyanese immigration officers who have been so gracious that they made me feel good to be a Guyanese.
Their pay is bordering on the ridiculous but they stick to their guns.
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