Friday, March 13, 2009

Deal with the Immigrant Issue Now!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

Now that the United Progressive Party has been re-elected to govern Antigua and Barbuda, there are several very critical things that need to be done – even before they begin to address the programs in their manifesto!

Today I will address one of the most painful and controversial issues that will divide many of us. What this election has showed is that it has already divided us!

I am writing about the immigrant issue where non-Antiguans can vote in our elections after being in the country for just three years. These people… some of whom are just passing through… are given the highest privilege that can be assigned to anyone: the opportunity to decide who should lead the country. In so doing, many of them seek to vote in ways that serve their interests… the interests of the immigrant community… which often conflicts with and differs from the interests of many Antiguans and Barbudans.

Many of them boast that they can and will decide our elections and many of them aggressively and often violently confront us in our own country. Imagine that! They come from Jamaica and Guyana and elsewhere… come here and want to fight me… spit at me… curse me out… and try to disenfranchise me. Me… a born Antiguan.

On this issue – whatever needs to be done… needs to be done now before Antiguans and Barbudans rise up! And I mean rise up! I am fed up with feeling like a second class citizen in my own country where Jamaicans, Guyanese, Dominicans and Spanish speaking individuals – act as if they are masters (and mistresses) of my land!.

Many of these people are… for some reason… running from their own country. Many of them have come here for opportunities that they don’t have where they were born. Here, they compete with our people for jobs… no problem! The children they brought with them get free education in our public schools… no problem! They get free hospitalization and free medical care… no problem. Their non-Antiguan children get free school meals… no problem!

And… they get the privilege… after only three years… to vote in our elections… BIG PROBLEM!

And with these things that they receive… they believe that they have the right… the right… to do as they will and to act as if this is their country… BIG PROBLEM!

Well… enough is enough!

Do you think that I can go to Jamaica and act like they do when they come here? Do you think that I could go to Guyana and act they way some Guyanese act and behave here in Antigua?

Enough is enough! This problem must be dealt with. And those politicians who have imported immigrants so that they can vote in our elections must also be dealt with. One way or the other!

As a born Antiguan… I will not be made a second class citizen in my homeland. I have travelled to the USA. I am a US citizen. I have a US passport. Before I received those do you think that I could behave the way these people behave. Every day… every step of the way… the US government made you understand in a thousand different ways that you were an “alien” in their country.

And let me make another issue clear: I did not give up my rights here as a native born Antiguan when I received a US Passport! (This is another matter that I will deal with in another article!)

Here in Antigua we must develop a clear immigration policy that allows and disallows entry. We must have a clear policy that strictly lays out the levels of privileges for various immigrant classifications. And we must have laws that we will rigorously implement for those who violate them including those for the public officials, politicians and lawyers who assist guilty non-natives.

Immigration and emigration is a fact of life. People will move to and fro. As a matter of fact the most powerful factor in globalization today is not economy or finance – it is the movement of people from one country to another. It cannot be stopped. It will not be stopped. But it must be controlled.

We must be both careful and strategic in who we give the privilege to work among us. We must be cautious in selecting those who we allow the privilege to live next door or we might find ourselves with another sniper as our neighbor, or an individual with a lengthy criminal record from another country who we have teaching our children as our neighbor.

Lest you think that I am blindly anti-immigrant let me fill you in. My mother is Barbadian…. she came here almost 70 years ago. All the people who are closest to me were born elsewhere. They are all non-Antiguans! But they are here legally! They did not circumvent the system that is in place so that they could vote or get a passport! And they have been here for over seven years… even my children!

I have thought long and hard before I wrote this article. I have chosen to do so because of what I saw this week… when several times I was confronted by non-Antiguans in red who acted as if I was the immigrant… as if they were the ones born at Holberton… as if they were the ones who used to carry water on their head at Perry Bay… or teach at Greenbay School… or coach soccer at King George…

I will not suffer any indignities at the hands of people who are imported to vote and disenfranchise me!

Yes… yes… This is the time for gentle engagement… and gentle dialogue and gentlemanly discussion.

But hear me clearly… Do not mistake the gentle dialogue from this Antiguan for lack of seriousness or firm commitment… to address this issue by whatever means necessary.

People like me have been gentle too long… have been quiet too long. I will be quiet no longer… I will not be stifled… not here where my mother gave birth to me!

I did not drink Cooks pond water… but I bathed in and swallowed Perry Bay water… and for those who know what that means… well… you will understand why I feel this way about my country.