Ever since we escaped the clutches of slavery, the people of St Kitts- Nevis (and particularly Nevis) have been on the move. This point is made by Bonham Richardson, in his book Caribbean Migrants. Quoting from Council minutes of 1842, he noted that between 1838 and 1842, some 3,000 persons migrated, mostly to Trinidad.
Richardsoncements this point that we have always been on the move when he noted that in 1975, nationals generated 17,309 air trips abroad and 17,328 returns, more than 40% involving the USVI. He also commented that forthe 120 persons whose obituaries were aired between mid-March to mid-June 1976, there were 356 grieving relatives who were living in the UK, US, and British, Dutch and US Virgin Islands alone. But by far the most staggering statistic he presents is that between 1960 and 1970, 17,572 nationals of St Kitts and Nevis migrated to the USVI, a rate almost twice as high as the other Commonwealth Caribbean nations. In 1970, our population was recorded at roughly 44,900
Such movement means thatalmost every person in St Kitts-Nevis today has close relatives who live somewhere abroad. Not all of them are legal migrants, some went through the ‘window’.
Today, although many countries have tightenedtheir border control mechanisms, this has not dampened our enthusiasm for movement and migration. We still found means and opportunity to migrate. So much so, that that there may be more nationals/citizens living in the diaspora than there are nationals living at home. This has financial (remittances) and governance (electoral) implications, but that is not the focus of this editorial.
Our membership in CARICOM and OECS has opened up member countries for emigration, but, consistent with migration research, our preference is to goNorth. Unfortunately, the BVI and Anguilla are not full members of CARICOM or of the OECS, so we are therefore subject to immigration control. St Maarten/St Martin is not a member at all, so there is no free movement there. Jamaica does not seem to hold any attraction for us and it is difficult to get into the Bahamas. Thus we are generally stuck at home unless we obtain green cards and Canadian visas.
This is not to say persons are not mobile. Pregnant females are birthing their babies abroad and returning home, thereby creating an avenue for the child to emigrate at the appropriate time. Thus, many personsmigrating from the Federation are actually citizens-by- descent who are returning home.
It is against this background of entrenched emigration that the deportation of illegal immigrants and convicted felons from the United States is of great concern.
Let us hope for the continued safety of our nationals abroad.