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Despite the expense and the danger, deportees slip back in again and again

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By INGRID BROWN
Jamaica Observer, Kingston
Friday, December 18, 2009; 1:27 PM

KINGSTON -- Jamaicans deported from the United States have been risking turbulent seas and dangerous clandestine trails in some instances to return here, paying as much as $10,000 (about $870,000 in their own currency) for the hazardous trek.

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A Sunday Observer investigation found that criminals deported from the United States for serious drug offenses and homicides have reentered the United States in a matter of weeks, despite several U.S. initiatives to monitor its borders.

Not only are Jamaicans being smuggled through Caribbean islands such as the Bahamas, they also have identified new routes to the United States through Mexico, and to a lesser extent, Canada and Switzerland, according to the Sunday Observer probe.

Glenmore Hinds, Jamaica's assistant commissioner of police, said that the Bahamas provide deportees an easy access route into the United States.

"At least $10,000 can get you there . . . because persons will travel on a vessel taking drugs from Jamaica to the Bahamas for about $5,000, and then the remainder will get them into the U.S.," he said.

But Jamaica's police are unable to say how widespread this lucrative smuggling trade is, because they do not know when deportees have reentered the United States until they are caught and sent back home.

It is not difficult to leave Jamaica undetected, Hinds said, because of the large number of beaches, fishing villages and operators of registered and unregistered boats on the island.

The migrant-smuggling trade continues despite efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard, which maintains constant surveillance and patrols in the coastal waters, employing large cutters, patrol boats, small boats and aircraft.

But this is little deterrent to those willing to risk all to return to a life of fast money fueled by the drug trade.

Tony, a Jamaican who declined to give his full name because he is in the United States illegally, is among them. He would only speak via the cellphone of a contact a reporter met in a New York coffee shop. He spoke cryptically throughout the interview, saying that in his "line of business one can never be too careful and must always assume others are listening."

The 34-year-old father of four U.S.-born children is apparently living large in California, having bought cars and houses, he said, for the mothers of his children.

There is no talk of a retirement in Jamaica; he has set his sights on living in the United States for years to come.


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