The times Bob Marley was expelled from the US

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Claudia Gardner reports for Dancehall Magazine.

Reggae legend Bob Marley was ordered by United States Immigration officials, to leave the country or be deported, on two occasions, records dating back to 1966 have revealed.

The documents, totaling 95 pages, which were requested by journalist and social justice activist Murv Glass a month after Bob died in 1981 under the Freedom of Information Act, have been online from as far back as August 2021.

On the first occasion in 1966, the One Love singer was “considered for deportation proceedings” and later ordered to voluntarily leave the US eight months after he moved to live in Delaware with his mother Cedella Booker.  Based on Bob’s attestations, this was due primarily to a misunderstanding of the parameters of his immigration status which saw him getting married and automatically disqualifying himself from permanent residency.  At the time, the Gong had gained employment as a houseman at the DuPont Hotel in Delaware, to among other things, “vacuum floors, and do general housework such as washing walls, mirrors and lamps”.

This first “expulsion” turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as without it the world would not have benefited from the music of one of the world’s greatest musicians.

On the other occasion, in 1977, Marley, who went to the US to undergo surgery after a cancerous tumor was discovered under his right big toe, was told that if he did not leave the country by a specified date, he would have been forcibly removed and deported to Jamaica, this after the Reggae kingpin had requested an extension of stay, a month after the time allotted for him to stay in that country had elapsed.

Expulsion #1

January 20, 1966 – Bob Marley obtains a non-quota immigrant visa at the US Embassy in Kingston “as an unmarried child of an alien permanent resident.”

February 10, 1966 – Bob marries Rita in Kingston.

February 17, 1966 – Bob Marley migrates – enters the US via Miami.  The documents included the front and back of Bob’s alien registration in 1966.

June 28, 1966 – Rita Marley applies for immigrant visa as an immediate relative being Bob’s wife.   The Embassy refuses on the grounds that, among other things, her husband was “not a lawfully admitted permanent resident”.

July 6, 1966 – Vernon McAninch, American consul in Kingston, writes to District Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Philadelphia, Bertram Bernard questioning Marley’s immigration status outlining that the then 21-year-old had got married to Rita, despite signing “the usual statement acknowledging that he would lose his immediate relative status by marrying before applying for admission into the United States”.

July 19, 1966 – Acting Assistant District Director, Travel Control, Philadelphia, sends a memo saying that Marley had nullified his immigrant visa as his marriage occurred “between the time the visa was issued and the time he entered the United States”.

August 17, 1966 – Marley, who was working at the DuPont Hotel as a houseman, for six months, appeared before an immigration investigator for an interrogation.

During the extensive interview, Bob told the officer that he was an electrical welder and an entertainer back in Jamaica for two years, had recorded songs but had not come to the US with the intention to be an entertainer.

When asked if he were a professional singer he responded: “No, sir, amateur”.

When asked why he married Rita before he came to the United States, Bob Responded: “She was pregnant and she lost the baby, so the best thing I could do was to marry her and try to bring her to the United States.”

Upon being asked by the officer “how did you expect to avoid being excluded from the United States?” Bob responded: “Well, at that time, sir, I didn’t understand the Form.”

When asked: “in case it develops that you are liable to deportation, if granted the privilege of leaving the country voluntarily, would you leave voluntarily at your own expense?” Bob responded: “Yes, sir.”

October 9, 1966 – Bob Marley, having been granted voluntary departure from the United States, left that country for his homeland, Jamaica, to later become one of the biggest stars the world has ever seen.

Expulsion #2

On the other, occasion in which Marley was asked to leave the US, the documents show that his physician William L. Bacon, had written a letter supporting his application to “Extend Time of Temporary Stay in the United States”, which was submitted by his lawyers.

The doctor’s letter had noted that Marley was admitted to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital on August 23, 1977, underwent surgery on August 26, 1977 and would “need to stay in the area for an undetermined period of time”.

However, in a letter dated October 12, 1977, the US Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service in Miami denied the request stating that “not only were you out of status for over one month before filing for an extension but a toe operation would certainly not constitute a stay of one year in the US and that “medical stays for B-2 visitors are for those hospitalized”.

“It will be necessary for you to depart from the United States not later than October 30, 1977.   Should you fail to depart by the date specified, you are to appear at this office on the first business day after the specified departure date for institution of deportation proceedings.  If you fail to depart and do not appear, a warrant for your arrest will be issued,” the notice stated.

Marley left for the British Virgin Islands on October 20th, 1977.

Bob Marley died at age 36, on May 11, 1981 in Miami, as a result of the acral lentiginous melanoma, which he had been diagnosed with in 1977.   He was buried in his birthplace in Nine Mile in St. Ann.

For full article and ancillary materials, see

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