There were 861 Bahamians with criminal records who were deported from the United States between 2008 and 2017, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The report, titled “2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics”, revealed that 82 Bahamians with criminal records were deported in 2008; 98 in 2009; 86 in 2010; 113 in 2011; 90 in 2012; 80 in 2013; 87 in 2014; 67 in 2015; 85 in 2016; and 73 in 2017.
In 2006, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada noted that some government officials had linked the influx of criminal deportees from abroad to increased criminal violence.
But Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said recently that fewer than four percent of Bahamians, who have been convicted of criminal offenses in the United States, return to The Bahamas and engage in serious crimes.
He told The Nassau Guardian, “The thing is that not everybody who is deported is a criminal. We tend to make a blanket statement that everyone who has been deported is a criminal deportee but again there are persons who may be sent back home for, as I mentioned, offenses like drug trafficking.
“You have stealing and theft, maybe grand theft auto. You have stuff like fraud and these are very minuscule.”
Dames added, “We have to put everything in its proper context. So, as I said, we had 64 persons returned this year and none would’ve come to the attention of the police.”
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) said that statistics released by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), between 1997 and 2007, revealed that roughly 8,000 criminal deportees were repatriated to The Bahamas.
According to the Immigration Enforcement Actions: 2011 report, 957 Bahamians convicted of criminal offenses were deported from the United States to The Bahamas between 2002 and 2011.
In 2008, then Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest said criminal deportees from the United States were adding to the country’s rising crime numbers.
In 2013, then Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell said convicted criminals, who are either Bahamian, stateless or whose last port of entry was The Bahamas before entering the United States, are deported to The Bahamas on an almost weekly basis.
Bell said the deportation of convicted criminals to The Bahamas exposes the country to “a great threat of terrorism”.
However, when asked if there was a need for public concern for the hundreds of criminal deportees that were returned to The Bahamas, Dames said, “No. As I said before, the police have done a tremendous job in working this process and monitoring it and as a country we continue to do a great job in working with our counterparts in the U.S. and throughout the region.”
Dames, who served as deputy commissioner of police, added, “I can tell you when I was in the police force, because this fell under me, there was a time when there was tremendous concern not only in The Bahamas but in the entire region about these deportees. And the fact too…that some of these persons having been returned to countries that they have little knowledge of and that they were coming after having been involved in criminal activity.
“This was addressed at the regional level many years ago. In some countries in this region, they continue to have this level of concern and rightfully so.”
The minister said the police force actively monitors criminal deportees in The Bahamas and works to ensure that they are able to assimilate into society without re-engaging in criminal activity.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice