Jthere are few people who never make mistakes in life. Most of those who do something wrong admit it, apologize, and are allowed to move on. But if you’re black and you’re from Jamaica, that’s another story.
I made a mistake and because of it, on Wednesday May 18, I will be put on a Home Office deportation flight to my country of birth and separated from my five British children and family.
I came to the UK in 2000 when I was 21. In 2017, I was sentenced to four years in prison for growing cannabis plants. I raise my hands, I did something wrong, I served two years of this sentence and I will never do anything like this again. I haven’t committed any other offences. But this government does not accept that people like me deserve a second chance. One mistake and my life and my future were forever shattered.
I am a relative; my two youngest children are eight and ten. I have to protect my children from what happens to me. I was taken to a detention center last Thursday, their mother told them the news and I talked to them this weekend. But I don’t want them to get more upset by talking to them too much while I’m inside this place. My kids can’t quite understand why the system is doing this to me. They keep saying there must be a way to get me home.
Growing up in Jamaica was not easy. I was raised by my great-grandparents. They died when I was 16 and I spent four years surviving on my own before coming to the UK to join my family here. I remember the first week I arrived, I walked into a bar. A man said to me, “What are you looking at n….”
Those words have stayed with me ever since.
I did my best to do everything right. I went to college for two years, trained as an auto mechanic, worked hard for a company for 11 years, and paid all my taxes. When I got laid off, I started my own auto mechanic business. It was hard, I had financial difficulties and that’s when I made this mistake that the government will not forgive me: I started growing cannabis plants to make up for the shortfall in my business.
I came here from a country that is part of the Commonwealth, I did not expect this treatment. I thought I would serve my sentence and then be given a chance to correct my mistake, as other people in Britain do. I am sure that I am treated more harshly than others because I am a black man from Jamaica.
I would have thought politicians would have learned from the Windrush scandal, but instead the way people like me are treated seems to be getting worse. We don’t yet know how many Jamaicans will board next week’s charter flight. If I am forced to fly, I know my life will be in danger in my country of birth. I will be looking over my shoulder 24/7.
I doubt Priti Patel has ever sat down and talked to people like me. She doesn’t know the people she deports and she doesn’t know the circumstances that led people like me to commit a crime.
So many of the men I’m detained with, who fear being put on next week’s flight, have made a mistake similar to the one I made; like me, they are not given a second chance. As a result, our lives and those of all our children are about to be destroyed forever.
Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org