New York USA — Amidst uncertainty, panic, fear and confusion among undocumented Jamaicans here over United States President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, Jamaican immigration attorneys are urging calm and prodding those nationals who can to legalise their status.
“This is not a good time to be in the United States without proper documentation,” cautioned Joan Pinnock, a leading voice on immigration matters and head of the Jamaican American Bar Association.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Pinnock said that while President Trump’s recent executive order did not include Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals, they needed to be reminded that he had campaigned on deporting all illegal aliens from the country.
Pinnock said that legal residents (green card holders) who qualified should “take the next step and become citizens”. She sought to assure those who are sceptical that they would not lose their Jamaican nationality if they became US citizens and would instead enjoy dual citizenship.
According to Pinnock, those who are undocumented could legalise themselves through a petition by a relative such as an adult child. Warning that the current situation “is not a joke”, the attorney said that there were currently 500 Jamaicans in detention who had exhausted all legal channels and are to be deported soon.
She noted though that some of the fear among our people “are unfounded”, noting that a Diaspora Task Force on Immigration, established shortly after Trump became president, would be officially launched later this month “to help our residents understand the immigration system”.
Florida-based attorney Wayne Golding argued that there is likely to be heightened scrutiny by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) that could lead to increased enforcement and removal.
He said that permanent residents who, for example, remain out of the country for more than six months, could face increased questioning and possible revocation of their green card on return to the US.
Golding said that so intense was the fear among the Jamaican community in Florida that he and two other attorneys had convened a meeting with some of the Jamaican nationals to advise them of what the real situation was regarding their rights.
But Golding suggested that much of the fear was as a result of “falsehood being spread on social media”. In that he was supported by Donald P Vernon of the law Firm Vernon and Associates PC in New York, who noted that while he understood the concern within the Jamaican community, “there is no need for the intensity of the fear being witnessed among our people”.
Both Golding and Vernon were joined by Irwin Clare another prominent member of the diaspora in urging Jamaicans to take steps to legalise their status. In doing so they warned that care should be taken to ensure that they sought the advice of reputable counsel to assist them.