S.B. Jones - Hendrickson


Migration is basically the movement from one place to another; change, wandering; change, movement and wandering as those concepts pertain to people who opt to settle in another country, especially not their place of birth. Emigration is, also, the act of leaving one country to settle in another country. Immigration is to come into a new country, region or environment to settle.

These terms are simple guides in the matrix of movement. Why people move are varied as there are migrants. In the language of migration models, push factors, pull factors and intervening obstacles between the source and destination are the casual agents in a type of tripartite pulse at the core of people moving from one area to another, from one region to another, from one island to another, from one nation to another. While pull factors, push factors and intervening variables are preliminary in essence, they serve merely as a first approximation to explain the mystique, the majesty and the magnet of migration. Push, pull and intervening factors cannot be isolated from the general patterns of migration that encompass a region, an area or a country. Thus the magic of a CNN news cast, the perceived gold-paved streets of a New York, London or Toronto, the green-back laden strade of a St. Thomas, USVI, entrepot, all add mysticism to perception and hide actuality from reality in the minds of migrants.

The fortunes and misfortunes of countries tend to attract or repel entrants into and from the labor force, into and from a country. The ebbs and fl6ws of migrants, emigrants, immigrants in a country will continue as long as the perceived marginal social benefits of migration exceed the perceived marginal social costs. Barriers will be erected if law-makers or others who peddle influence or who have influence are forced by rationalism or racism to tolerate other people in their home countries.

Within recent years, there has developed a new perspective on migration/immigration and emigration in the Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean community. That perspective incorporates the push, pull and intervening factors but is also accommodative to the episodic underpinnings of why people migrate: why people uproot themselves or are uprooted to go from one locale to another. Today the changing demographic landscape of the Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean community is a function, in a quantitative and qualitative sense, of a variety of factors. People have moved inter-regionally, intra­regionally, inter -politically, cross-culturally and the descriptors go on and on. The sum total is that people are now moving into the region as a result of economic, educational and political factors. Others move as a consequence of adventure, exploitation, law-abiding, law­breaking, law-hiding, ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

In the full panoply of this issue, however, the regional landscape has changed and will continue to change. The changing face of the region has some attendant stresses. People who move take cultural traits, culinary characteristics, religious rites and tolerances, sexual preferences and predispositions. Young people move, old people move. Productive people move, energetic people move. When all factors are considered, a variety of multi-modal types and characters move in and out of the Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean.

In this movement scenario, the newcomers to the region bring life styles, behavior and patterns which sometimes blend with those of the host countries, sometimes superimpose themselves on the host or sometimes obliterate the hosts. Some behaviors are aggressive, positively and negatively. Some newcomers are quiet and prescient; some are loud; some are legal and illegal; some blend in as result of skin colour and language; some cannot blend as result of skin colour and twang.

Culturally the emigrants/migrants add source to the
























                                                              170                                  CARIBBEAN AFFAIRS

emigration in the region has been an uneven one. The policies are not often well-thought out; the implications are many times poorly specified, and in many respects the institutionalisation of policies come dangerously close to racism, and close to stimulating and retreating into the cocoon of nativity. Countries in the region establish political barriers, economic walls, and cultural fences to separate the “ins” from the “outs”. In many respects, these barriers, walls and fences become, in a contrived way, bad mixed-metaphorical sieves. People learn how to penetrate the barriers, scale the walls and jump the fences. Misuse of drugs and sale of services tend to gravitate to the economic pole where the economic benefits are highest. In this regard, Illegal drugs pass through the region and in the region; locals and others mix in a cosmopolitan blend that makes it difficult to distinguish Tom, Dick and Harrylal from Mary, Jane Comtielala.

Some leaders in and out of the political directorate develop a mixture of animosity and admiration in regional policies, personnel perspectives and personal predispositions, depending upon if they believe they have to look over their shoulders for fear that the immigrants will take their jobs or support them.

Some migrants live a Jekyll and Hyde life, suspended in animation between the old home and their new host country. Some are in limbo between the 1-90, the immigration form, the work permit, the visa, the green card, the F-1 visa and all of the other institutional features which serenely guard people but which cannot hermeneutically seal the countries from health risks, economic penetrations and political incursions. Attitudes of ambivalence can be on a wave, ebbing and flowing, dependent upon whether migrants are legal, illegal, quiet or boisterous.

Some leaders rise to ascendancy on the backs of migrants positively and negatively. Some seek to protect their populations, a racism in all of its polyglot manifestations. Some seek out the new immigrants to buttress their proclivity for liberalism. Some selectively use  former political affiliation, cultural agendas, and even paradigmatic modes of political convergence, when it suits the purpose. For example, the policies of the USA relative to the treatment of Haitians and Cubans is a point in question. The 1960’s and 1970’s maltreatment of many persons from the eastern Caribbean in the USVI, the current maltreatment of people from Guyana, Haiti and from Santo Domingo around the Caribbean, are illustrations of policies gone awry, or customs and immigration officers misinterpreting what they believe is official policy. In many respects, the policy may be a “hush-hush” policy based on a perception of bad economic conditions in the countries whose nationals are maligned. Perception tends to be stronger than reality in many instances.



There is a need for the regional leaders, and for others who are critical in decision-making and policy-shaping, to begin to look at the Caribbean region from the point of view of scale and scope. In terms of size, scale and scope, and from the perspective of influence and impact, the region cannot afford to put up barriers to the solution of the problems of the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs, and the associated problem of AIDS. Immigration, migration and emigration are not the causes of these problems. They make these problems easy to multiply and they make the problems difficult to solve. If each country in the region seeks to go it alone, trying to resolve the problems which are now confronting the region, it would be an injudicious waste of resources. The openness of Caribbean societies requires that regional bodies, regional leaders, governmental and non-governmental, should aspire to concretise ways and means of developing a common approach to the solution of the problems that now confront the region in the health arena. If borders were to be closed, the problem may be contained. But closed borders lead to closed societies. And closed societies eventually lead to dead societies. Regionally leaders cannot afford the cocoon-mentality of closing borders. There may be policies that seek to control immigration. It should be noted, however, that when a country controls its borders, it opens itself to retaliation from other countries. In the specific context of health and health-related risks, commerce, tourism, and other general trade will also have to be restricted. The implicit argument here would be to sanitise one’s population from the scourges of all things foreign. It is obvious how paranoiac such a policy could become.

It is imperative, therefore, that as policies are developed in the Caribbean to deal with the issue of the abuse of Liquor and tobacco, and to deal with the scourge of AIDS, leaders have to rethink their strategies of going it alone. The region is a wide open society. It always was open; it will always be open. There are benefits to openness. There are also costs.

The question, today, is not why people move. That is contrafactual. The question is this: now that there are international migrants from all over the world moving into all parts of the Caribbean, from Main Street, St. Thomas, USVI, to Les Efforts West, Trinidad; from the Roof Top Night Club, in Ocho Rios, to Pier Sixty-Nine in Frederiksted, St. Croix; from After Dark night club in Barbados to Flex Night Club in St. Kitts, what will leaders do to resolve the health problems affecting the people? Good health and poor health move with people. There are myriad problems associated with people when they move. Leaders have to see the possibilities for change and cooperation deriving from the movement, rather than seeing problems of “scape-goating” those who move in, out and throughout the region.

The movement of people in the Caribbean as that movement stems from migration, emigration and immigration, is a movement that will always be with us. The myriad benefits of migrants are well documented.

Migrants are generally more productive, and normally have a higher labour-force participation rate than locals. Migrants are normally eager to work, and eager to do all kinds of work. They normally help in the transformation of the host society, in a variety of ways.

Policies must be developed in the region to address a region that encompasses a people for whom movement is endemic to the psyche. The region is also an area where others see easy access as the norm. In the specific context, therefore, when people move, the good, the bad, and the unfortunate are also caught up in the maelstrom of the movement. The solution is not to develop an ostrich-like syndrome - that is, the putting of heads in sand. One solution lies in the collective efforts of regional leaders and governments to come to a common unified understanding of treating the fundamentals of the problems rather than reacting to the symbols; focus on the substance rather than on the sound.



This means that the regional leaders cannot afford to swing in modes of paranoia and hospitality toward people who visit our shores or who opt to live among us. We ourselves have to be receptive to inter-regional movement as well as intra-regional movement. The pattern of promiscuous inclusiveness and paranoia of exclusiveness on issues of voting, jobs, length of stay in countries, work permits, and so on, are artifacts that will dilute rather than concentrate the talents that our region could use judiciously, pragmatically, and with innovation. The wider Caribbean, the Americanised Caribbean, indeed America, has been the beneficiary of an explosive outburst of talent, trouble and benefits from all over the world. The flood gates of movement have caused dislocations, disruptions in schools, health care and in the job markets. On par, however, the benefits of the region in the long run, far surpass the disruptions.

A policy of immigration may be circumscribed such that

immigrants are seen as birds of passage. They may be forced to live in an existential space. They may even opt to so live in such ~i space. In the end, migrants contribute to the host societies. The vitality, vibrancy and heightened productivity that migrants contribute have to be mapped in the space of factors that are attendant with movement of people. It must be made abundantly clear that migrants are not the only AIDS carriers; they are not the only ones who abuse drugs. They are not the only ones who come on yachts and planes with drugs. It is critical that the regional leaders not merely see the movement as a problem. It is vital that the regional leaders see how the problems of movement could be resolved from the point of a unified solution.

Some leaders see the region as going through stresses. Some analysts contend that all we need to do is to cope with the problems. Coping, in our view, is a first step. Regional leaders need to move beyond coping and actively seek a unified solution to attack the problems. This may mean the use of shared resources; shared research; a common attack on a problem as a result of its magnitude; pan-Caribbean solutions to problems, independent of political persuasions and border considerations. AIDS respects no borders, no race, no class, no colour.

Regional policies have to anticipate, innovate, and stimulate actions that will, from a holistic sense, be regional in nature, but be global in applications.

Stress, in a classical sense is a disruptive, pathological condition. Stress, in the Caribbean today, must be seen as a transitive dynamic force both from a positive and negative point of view. Leaders have to react to the stress in a multivariate way. The leaders must, cognitively, appraise the stress and the stressors in such a way that the region copes. Coping mechanisms are a first step. AIDS and drug abuse are stressors. To the extent that the proliferation of these health hazards are associated with the movement of people in and out of our region, the regional leaders will have to see coping as necessary but not sufficient. The disasters that now confront the region must be seen for what they are, an opportunity for greater co-operation and collaboration in sharing of resources, managing care, and having the courage to challenge old ways with new priorities. Regional leaders will have to let go of the past, and move into the future with a new, concerted thinking: a thinking that deals exponentially with health-care and other related issues and problems. The old linear thinking will not work.

Caribbean people are movers; they will continue to be movers. The region is seen as a playground for a variety of pleasures and a haven for myriad types of personalities. The region had benefited from the in-ward movement and the outward movement of people. But, like everything else, the pulse of movement has its attendant limitations. The stress of health care resources as those resources relate to the level and the moving population, all factors considered, is a stress that now calls for bold initiatives to deal in a collective sense with the attendant misuse of drugs and the problems of AIDS in the region.

Now, more so than ever before, the need for a regional approach to pan-Caribbean health issues takes centre stage.     

It is hoped that the regional leaders will use the current health problems as a spring board for co-operation and not as a pedestal for history making. Many regional leaders have lived by the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But because they did not fix it, all of the time, health care is now broken. Health care as it relates to the movement of people in the Caribbean has to be fixed now. Given the economies of scale and scope, health-care issues must be fixed regionally and locally.

The impact of migration, emigration and immigration on the regional economies and societies had been positive, ceteris paribus. However, concomitant with the benefits derivable from the movement have been some costs associated with health-care retarding issues. Regional leaders have to develop a common modal, unified approach to the solution of the health-care problems as they n confront the region. The problems of the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs and the pandemic problems emanating from AIDS/HIV are problems that should tackled from a unified base. Country-specific utilisation resources to attack the problems will be an injudicious use of scarce resources.