The resolve of President Donald Trump to weed out illegal immigrants from the United States of America (USA) was initially deemed a mere threat because over the years, similar statements had been made but not implemented. Many citizens from the developing world particularly from Asia and Africa and mostly in Ghana have found the USA a safe haven to have greener pastures and, therefore, no matter the threats, they still find their way there.
On the average, it is estimated that a minimum of 100 Ghanaians leave the shores of the country to the states never to return. These are people who go in search of menial jobs because they do not have their original documents and permits to enable them to stay and work.
Why do they leave?
The major reason for their departure is because they have completely lost interest in the economy and, therefore, no matter how rich they may be in the country, they still believe that they are better off in the states than to be in Ghana and remain in a messy economy managed by politicians who seek their interest and not that of the majority of the masses. Corruption continues to deprive the people of what they are due and this canker is fast consuming the cake meant for the majority.
There are no jobs to accommodate the large number of unemployed youth, most of whom graduate from the universities. Many sit home for years without jobs and are forced to engage in all manner of social vices. Many of the young ladies, some as young as 14 years, are forced to become prostitutes just to make ends meet. The young men become rogues and indulge in armed robbery or in cybercrime.
Barely a month ago, Ghana Immigration Service advertised space for 500 people. In the end, they received more than 83,000 applications out of which it made a total of almost GH¢4.5 million from the sale of application forms. The Ghana Police Service recruitment last year also saw almost the same number of applicants applying.
In his address to Parliament at the tail end of last year, the Minister of Finance painted a positive picture of the saying that in just 10 months the country was witnessing a stable economy. According to him, there is a return to robust growth, with a real GDP growth of 7.8 per cent in the first half of 2017 against 2.7 per cent in 2016; there is renewed confidence in the economy; there was a decline in inflation; end-September inflation of 12.2 per cent from 15.4 per cent December 2016 and there was also an increase in credit to the private sector.
In the same period under review, there was relative stability in the exchange rate market (cumulative depreciation of 4.42 per cent; Cut in policy rate to 21 per cent from a peak of 26 per cent in 2016; Normalisation of the domestic yield curve; and the issuance of the country’s maiden 15-year bond in April 2017; Improved external balances, driven by higher export earnings and lower imports; and improvement in the gross international reserves, with about four months of imports cover; Surplus in primary balance of 0.3 per cent in September 2017 against a deficit of 1.6 per cent in September 2016; as well as a positive rating reviews from all three Rating Agencies: Fitch, B/stable; Standard & Poor, B-/positive; and Moody’s B3/stable.
Good as this sounds, at the micro level, nothing seem to be seen on the ground. Private sector is not expanding to employ more people and that is making the unemployment situation in the country to worsen. These, among many other things, have created a hostile environment which is driving away the people to countries where they are abused.
US government carrying out threats
Yahoo news at the weekend reported that the US immigration agents fanned out to nearly 100 7-Eleven convenience stores nationwide on Wednesday, arresting 21 people suspected of being in the country illegally and giving owners a tight deadline to prove other employees are authorised to work.
The operation was the largest workplace enforcement by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, since Republican President Trump took office last January, agency spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said in an email.
At a White House meeting last Tuesday, President Trump urged lawmakers to quickly reach a bipartisan deal on a programme for “Dreamers,” people who came to the country illegally as children, before moving on to a comprehensive immigration bill.
“Notices of inspection” were delivered last Wednesday to 98 7-Eleven stores in 17 states and the District of Columbia beginning at 6 a.m. in each local time zone. Owners and managers have three business days to produce documents showing their employees are in the country legally or they could face civil and criminal penalties, ICE said.
The states where the employment audit notices were served were California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, ICE said.
Based in Irving, Texas, 7-Eleven has 60,000 convenience stores in 18 countries, including 8,500 in the United States, according to its website.
The federal operation was a follow-up to the 2013 arrests of nine 7-Eleven franchise owners and managers, ICE said in a statement. Those owners were accused of hiring employees living illegally in the United States and giving them identities stolen from US citizens.
The 21 people who were “administratively arrested” on Wednesday on suspicion of being in the country illegally were given notices to appear in immigration court and could be deported.
Shivers down the spine
The action by the government has sent shivers down the spine of many illegal Ghanaian immigrants in the states, some of whom are refusing to go to work for fear of being rounded up.
Some of them who spoke on grounds of anonymity asked the Trump administration to soften its stance on the implementation of the Act and pledged their commitment to work within the law.
“We Africans are not terrorists and, therefore, we should not be feared,” one told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS.
But with President Trump now using unprintable language to describe the illegal immigrants, it is not clear if the laws would be relaxed.
The Trump administration does not seem ready to listen and, therefore, the exercise will be carried out more rigorously. It is likely to see more Ghanaians pushed back home and the situation will likely worsen the unemployment situation.
To this end, the government needs to ensure that the various initiatives such as the one district, one factory (1D1F) and the planting for food and jobs are well implemented to achieve the intended purpose. If properly executed, it would absorb a larger number of the unemployed masses to reduce the burden on the government. Ghana will be attractive enough to prevent its citizens from seeking greener pastures elsewhere.