Illegal immigrant regrets running off

May 30, 2023

After being told by illegal immigrants how high-paying jobs were accessible in Panama City, Florida, Pam* spent close to $500,000 and fled Jamaica to the USA using the border with Mexico as her route.

But the 32-year-old said she now regrets the decision.

"Is February mi go up and mi nah go lie, it did rough because when mi finally reach Mexico, mi start wonder if mi was a stray puppy because is so dem deal wid mi harsh. Mi walk night and day to reach one part and no food. Mi fraid a snake so when mi all a cross one sinting look like gully mi start memba di show name Anaconda," she said.

Pam said she spent a little more than a week in a US detention centre and was received by a relative who had promised to accommodate her.

"Mi get back mi passport but mi skip di [immigration] court date which was mi plan. Honestly, after the first few days, mi start hear say mi have to go start pay bills and mi not even start work yet. Mi end up move out and go stay with somebody else and mi get a job at a salon. But say for example di hair cost US$200 fi do, is $90 mi get pay. Sometimes is just three work mi get a week and mi have to pay a little ting for rent out a it," she said. "Is more than one a we in the room and mi nah lie when mi say it uncomfortable. Mi and others have to find ways to hide we money because four a we in there and money a go missing."

Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed Senate Bill 1718 which seeks to crack down on illegal immigration. Among other things, the new bill requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to include a citizenship question on intake forms. Critics said this was intended to dissuade undocumented immigrants from seeking medical care. The bill also expands requirements for businesses with more than 25 staffers to use E-Verify, a federal system that determines if employees can legally work in the US.

Pam said she is now running from immigration officials who she said have been raiding homes and businesses in search of 'aliens'.

"Mi have to a practise fi twang and is like everybody a immigration [official]. Recently mi go a one corner store and mi feel paranoid like somebody a watch mi. Likkle most mi run off. Yuh see because the straight people dem know say we nuh straight, yuh find out say all Jamaicans start deal with we a way. Di other day a woman call mi to babysit her children fi US$250. Normally a $400 mi a get fi dem work deh but mi just have to take it," she said.

She said she is contemplating relocating to another state but doesn't know anyone living outside of Florida who is willing to accommodate her. But returning to Jamaica is not an option as she may be incarcerated. She admitted that she fled the country after withdrawing money from a relative's bank account.

"Mi wouldn't say mi tief the money because mi did a plan to pay it back still but mi couldn't stay in the sufferation any longer. Mi nuh too good with the education ting so mi just a look better," she said.

*Name changed to protect identity

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