Not since the 1970s when Missle and Upper-Class Jamaicans, fearing what they perceived as the Threat of Communism, have been rushing to flee their homeland for greener and safer pastures!
This time the exodus is real, and it’s not just the Middle and Upper-classes that are fleeing, All the Classes, the working classes; professionals; the Poorer Classes; and especially those who identify as LGBTQ; and even hardened criminals. Jamaicans are in a hurry to get out before it’s too late.
Mind you, not many who are in a rush to leave, can actually say when it will be too late., but most generally agree that that cut-off point is the timetable, which is dictated by circumstances just out of their control, like the fear of crime, including how commonplace murder has become; and the fear of getting stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder, and left in a place where they cannot provide for themselves and or their families and relatives.
Back in the day, for the most part, the middle and upper classes qualified for visas, and the American State Department, in its animosity to the Michael Manley administration, encouraged the brain drain of the privileged classes by facilitating their Flight. Whilst those of lesser social standing, paid through their nose, to get out of Jamaica. Many hiring Human-Traffickers, but back then they were known as ‘People Smugglers’; and the escape route for those using this route was usually, flying to the Bahamas, and hiring or hitching a ride on a speed-boat, that would ferry them into Florida, where they would be let off in someone’s yard, and then left to blend in the community until they made contact with relatives who would then fetch them or make arrangements for them to go elsewhere.
Another option widely used back then was the tampering of passports. And this would see one passport being used by many, simply by switching the Picture, substituting the original for someone else who could afford the exorbitant fees being charged. And not to forget, there were boat charters to the Virgin Islands, Tortola; etc., where it was easier to transport People to the US.
Well, fast-forward to the year 2022, and the rush to leave Jamaica, by any and all means necessary, has been expedited to the nth degree, with practically all and sundry, excepting for a few embedded with the ruling political cabal, determined to find get-out.
2022, was the year, most of Jamaica’s underclass and underserved, discovered the Mexican/United States Border. And began attacking it in earnest, in their bid to escape creeping poverty and social dislocation; and or sexual discrimination, violence, and or death, at the hands of their homophobic neighbours, relatives, and even friends.
But what started as a trickle, in 2022, became a full-blown tsunami, in 2023. As whereas in 2022, the amount of Jamaicans flying to Mexico, Panama, or Belize to escape Jamaica and try and gain a foothold in the US, numbered among the hundreds daily, those numbers skyrocketed to the Thousands, by 2023, especially, with the worldwide relaxation of Pandemic era Covid restrictions.
Now, curiously, the Operational headquarters for the Human Traffickers, selling safe passage out of Jamaica, is Prime Minister Andrew Holness’s West St. Andrew’s Constituency. The Fee is an immodest US$5000. This fee is said to include Airfare; A guide In Mexico, to help navigate Border crossing; and a personal safety guarantee, to avoid the pitfall of becoming prey to sex traffickers and or Organ harvesters.
Now, as more and more Jamaicans were making use of this very dangerous migration strategy, the Mexican authorities started noticing an increase in airline traffic, in passengers flying in from Jamaica and began tightening their border controls, as it was not only Jamaicans that were using the flights originating in Jamaica, to get to Mexico, as there was a substantial increase in the Number of Cubans, flying into Mexico, from Jamaica as well. And realizing what was happening, the Mexican Authorities sought to shut it down.
Well, this caused the Jamaican Traffickers to recalibrate, and instead of booking would be illegal migrants to the US, to fly directly to Border towns, ‘Migrants” were advised/encouraged to book holidays in places like Cancun; Los Cabos, Tulum etc. spend a few days, then take an internal flight to Guadalajara; Tijuana, El Paso, etc. Where they would book into a recommended hotel, where they would be contacted by Mexican traffickers, to help them in their final push to cross the border.
The trip in its totality, is fraught with danger, as it’s largely a cash transaction. And those undertaking the Journey, run the risk of being robbed and abandoned, along the way; or robbed and then sold into the international sex slave trade; sold to organ harvesters; and or run the risk of being physically raped and or abused by those supposedly escorting them, across the border.
It is Quite a hazardous journey, that once embarked upon, there’s no telling where and how it will end. Pitfalls and perils aside, many have and continue to fork out hard-earned cash, to escape Jamaica and the promised Prosperity, for a chance to grab a slice of the much-ballyhooed ‘American Dream’.
John Doe is a 24 year-old Bi-sexual male from one of Kingston’s inner-city slums. Between his family, relatives, and friends, he managed to come up with the seed money of US$5000, to make the Trip, to Mexico.
In March of this year, he flew to Panama, and after nearly 10 days In Panama, flew to Cancun, Mexico. Having spent a few more nights in Panama than was originally planned, which ate into his funds, he adjusted his plans accordingly. So instead of checking into a hotel in Cancun, he spent the night in the Airport and booked the earliest flight he could, to Guadalajara.
In Guadalajara, he checked into a modest hotel and decided he would do his own reconnoitring before making his move to cross the border. Normally he would have stood out like a sore thumb, but it was Trafficking season in Guadalajara, and the place was bustling with foreigners, and loads of Jamaicans, who were there to join the crush of people massing to cross over into the US.
After 3-days, he met a Jamaican who’s been living in Guadalajara for the last 30 years, who then became his Guardian Angel, ‘teaching him the ropes’, of knowing when to time the Border Guards, and getting their Shift changes, right; learning how to recognize the Whistles and Tones the Mexican ‘Guides’ used to communicate with each other, to alert each other, when there were strangers in Town, and if the strangers were immigrants and of Undercover Police or Border Patrol agents, trying to infiltrate the smugglers’ bands. Schooling him, as to which of the Smugglers were trustworthy; Which of the Prostitutes were likely to Rob you and or betray you to their protectors in the Gangs.
This was the best part of the 7-weeks he spent in Guadalajara – During this time he saw thousands of Jamaicans, passing through, and to his surprise, this included People he recognized, such as a number of Police, Some Social Media personalities; and a few members of the JDF.
While studying the lay of the land, he learnt that Well-funded would-be immigrants rarely spent time lingering in the Border towns, some would arrive and after a few hours were contacted by ‘Guides’ who walked them across the border; others hired escorts to lead them across the Border and moved in groups, for their own protection. So they spent little time in ‘no man’s land.. And he learnt of Would-be migrants who had gone missing; recognized a few fellow migrants as Social Media Celebrities; There were even two DJs in the pack; heard of men and women who had been gang-raped, by their ‘Escorts’. Saw a discarded body, that he was told was a victim of possible Organ harvesters; and had heard so many hard-luck stories, he had seriously begun to wonder if it was all worth it.
In his sixth week in Guadalajara, he figured he had seen and learnt enough to stage his own Crossing. So he mustered up the courage, secured the little cash he had left, on his person, with his passport, and cell phone in hand, and decided the time to cross the border, was now or never.
And so he spent his day observing the Border Guards and Patrols, and as soon as he recognized a lull, which came around dusk, he made a dash from Mexican soil, unto American Soil, declaring as soon as he touched American soil, he was Fleeing sexual persecution in Jamaica, and was seeking asylum.
He was taken into Custody, and spent a few hours being grilled by ICE Agents; and 4-weeks later, when his Identity was established, plus the fact that he was not a US Felon; or wanted by US Law enforcement, was given conditional leave to remain In the US; at a US Government facility, until a Court hearing to determine the authenticity of his Asylum petition, is settled.
He was later given further conditional authority to leave the facility to stay with relatives and or friends, so placed a call to some relatives who picked him up and took him to Florida. From Floriday he flew to Chicago, where he reconnected with relatives.
Today, he is still in the US, living in Limbo, as his immigration status is yet to be determined, and this could take between 2 – 4 years. And If the Court finds his petition is without merit, he could be deported or sent back to Jamaica, where he would be out of the frying pan, and back in the fire, as it were. Because he is a double-edged sword, as he is both an economic and a sexual refugee, whose life as a bisexual man is genuinely in danger, if he’s sent back to Jamaica, and with his economic prospects being pretty nigh to zero, as he has no marketable skills and no certification, he is virtually unemployable. And there is the risk of reprisals from the Jamaican Traffickers, who do not like the stain of a failure on their resume, as this gives them no bragging rights and might imperil their ongoing business – so this is just another of his worries.
For the time being, however, he is enjoying what he can, of the American Dream, working as a Waiter by day and a Stripper by night, determined to amass whatever ‘little’ he can, while he can, just in case…
Clive is a 24-year-old, former resident of Grants Pen, in St Andrew. His boyfriend, Wayne, was from neighbouring Barbican Road – Both were active thugs and supporters of the JLP and pro-actively campaigned in support of Andrew Holness’s Prime Ministerial candidacy, as they thought that he being a ‘Young” politician from the post-independence generation, would have a better grasp of the issues facing the country, and would provide the leadership, hope and inspiration, needed to move the Country forward, with the Youth at the centre of the hoped would have been a transformational leadership agenda.
Their hopes and aspirations, turned to concern when they said they noticed a pattern where the Prime Minister began making excuses for the corruption in his government, instead of disciplining the corrupt and distancing himself from them.
That concern turned to despair when the Prime Minister was reelected in 2020. And the Opposition had seemingly fallen apart. So, feeling hopeless, trapped and seeing an increase in the homophobic rhetoric, in their communities, they both decided, the time was right to leave Jamaica.
Having decided to leave, they both took to the internet to research the prospects of being granted Asylum, as members of the Jamaican LGBTQ community. And thus the opportunity to flee Jamaica and the “Monster, Andrew Holness, was becoming”.
After the Genera;l Elections of 2020, they began prepping in earnest, to leave their homeland and its failing political system, by booking tickets and making reservations for Carnival, In Trinidad.
As per the plan, they flew to Trinidad, enjoyed the Carnival, and then went to the Trinidadian Red Cross, and asked for Asylum, on the basis of fleeing sexual persecution.
In Trinidad, they were taken to a Shelter, their passports taken from them and they were given a kind of ID, which facilitated them being able to move around in the country.
In a process that took 8 months, that saw them being housed and cared for by the Trinidadian Red Cross, They were advised that they had been granted Asylum, and the Country, offering them Asylum, was Canada.
Relieved and overjoyed as they had heard of a number of LGBTQ asylum seekers being sent to countries in Europe, They were happy that Canada, would be their new home, as whilst they did not plan to return to Jamaica, anytime soon, they wanted to be close enough, to be able to deal with familial eventualities.
They arrived in Canada, in 2021, and after being processed, were settled and provided with clothing, (Winter), housing, and a kind of subsistence, to see them through.
Today, both are gainfully employed; just returned to their Toronto, home, after a virgin trip to New York City, where they are content members of the unofficial LGBTQ Jamaica Community of Asylum beneficiaries in Canada.
While they await their naturalization process to the path of citizenship, Clive has filed an application for his 7-year-old son to join him and his partner in Canada and hopes that the application will be approved by next year, in time for him to return as Canadian Citizen, to pick up his son to take him back to Canada, for a new life of opportunities and away from the Country he loves and a Government he once saw as a saviour, but now regards as the enemy of the people, and the primary obstacle, to the ‘Prosperity’, they once preached…