An almost four year old US policy that have significantly reduced the requirements for Guyanese to obtain a visa to travel to the United States on vacation has since seen thousands of locals being issued with the mostly ten year multiple entry US visas.
And while this seemingly silent policy have saw thousands of Guyanese being able to get a taste of the Big Apple, it has reaped other silent rewards that have clearly benefitted the United States in its fight against human trafficking and other immigrant scheming ventures of the underworld.
This scenario was evident after the Guyana Guardian conducted a more than two months research into the subject matter which involved a handful of covert and indirect interviews with several underworld figures.
In one case, a known backtracker from the Mon Repos East Coast Demerara area, who was generating millions of dollars annually from persons who were once desperate to reach the United States, explained that things are so tough now that he only had three consultations this year, compared to hundreds in the past.
And from the three consultations, only one person who was a deportee had gone through with a request to assist him to go back to the US. However, the others were somewhat reluctant and only came as a result of underworld referrals after being turned down thrice by the US embassy in Georgetown.
‘De people dem a gee way de visa them to all kind a people easy easy. So no badee na want fuh pay you no money now fuh go New York”, he lamented in Guyanese creolese (which means: The Embassy is giving visas to people here very easy, even if you had a low paying job. As a result, no one wants to pay backtrackers to help them to get to New York anymore).
On a similar research visit to Berbice (a popular destination for backtrackers), the situation was practically the same. No more millions were flowing in from the US-bound illegal human smuggling trade.
And as observers have pointed out, many known backtracking operators from the underworld are now visibly struggling like everyone else to make ends meet via regular jobs or small time investments.
Many backtracking consultation taverns in Georgetown and New Amsterdam have also closed down, as the number of persons seeking to go via the once-popular back track route has been reduced to virtually non-profitable numbers.
For most Guyanese prior to the Obama era, getting to visit the United States was an almost difficult goal since the United States was used to enforcing a previously hard-lined policy that had labeled all visitors visa seekers as potential immigrants that did not want to return.
The visa refusal rate at the US Embassy in Georgetown back then was so high, that even a former Embassy official, Thomas Caroll profited from this tough policy by granting visas mostly to those who were willing to pay him thousands of US dollars for it.
Frustrated families and prospective visitors to the Big Apple were so accustom to this backdoor pay-for-visa mentality that people were once willing to pay as much as US$50,000 in some cases to obtain a three month visitor’s visa to the United States.
And the bosses of that era were the men and women who preyed on this desperation which generated more money for them than any other medium scale business operation in Guyana.
Therefore, even businessmen, and religious leaders got involved in this easy-money venture that had once seem to be a part and parcel of Guyanese daily life.
So in those times, the cash flowed in, as those desperate to reach the United States, paid repeatedly to reach almost nowhere, since only a handful of black market visa seekers or back tracking travelers actual made it through to the United States.
But today, the United States has issued so many visas to Guyanese that many of them treats a trip to the United States like a domestic trip to Bartica. And by most accounts at least 90% of this visitor ratio have avoided falling into the overstaying category.
From fish vendors to taxi drivers, thousands of Guyanese have visited New York, and realized that the American dream in most cases was probably not meant for them. Hence they are always seemingly eager to head back home, juggling with their regular jobs, while they plan another vacation to the country that once difficult for most of them to lawfully visit.
And the good out of all of this is that almost no one is longer willing to fork out their hard earned US$20,000 to US$30,000, or even a US$500 to give to a backtracker to help them to get to the United States.
After all, they are more certain to be granted a visitor’s visa if they make a genuine representation in an application to the Embassy of the United Sates in Georgetown, which would cost them less money, while saving them from any entanglement with any of the sometimes brutal agents of the underworld.
But for the hundreds of underworld schemers who have long relied on this immigrant exploitation scheme for decades, hundreds of millions of dollars are now being choked off from them, with no certainty as to when such an underground venture can be revived again.
However, others are hoping that incoming US President Donald Trump toughens or close off the easy visa policy for Guyanese, which would be more than enough to relight the flames of the backtracking business for them all over again.