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Jan 24, 2017

New Border Documentation Causes Hassles for Guat Parents

On Monday night, Guatemalan parents met in Melchor De Mencos to express their distress about new border crossing regulations put in place by Belize’s Ministry of Immigration for students coming into Benque. The regulated process has been in the works since October 2015 and is a security control measure to prevent persons from crossing the border without proper documentation or under the guise of being a student. News Five’s Duane Moody reports from the western border in Benque.

 

 

Melvin Manzanero, Principal, Mount Carmel Primary School

“It’s just that the process took a little too long and we had students coming in to school here at about nine-thirty, up to ten, we had some students coming in. So they were late, you know, they were late.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Over eight hundred students commute daily across the border from Guatemala, but on Monday morning, some were stopped dead in their tracks when a new border crossing system was put in place. The line extended outside the western border and the process went on for hours, leaving Guatemalan parents up in arms.

While all persons, including students, coming in to Belize are to be in possession of a passport or proof that a citizen supports them locally, that has not been happening. For years, students were allowed to cross without permits. In October 2015, a process of providing commuting students with official student border crossing cards began—fifty dollars for the student permits and twenty dollars for the card. The card, which now serves as a passport, was issued up to last week and will now record who enters and leaves the country. Principal Melvin Manzanero says that parents were adequately informed about the new change in place.

 

Melvin Manzanero

Melvin Manzanero

“It’s something that the immigration department along with the Ministry of Education has been working with the principals in the area in having the students that come over to our school have some system of identification in order to cross the border. Yes parent were informed because I can recall that this was an agreement between the Government of Guatemala and Belize…I think I can recall in Placencia where this was part of the agreement. So the Ministry of Education contacted us and engaged us with a meeting along with the Immigration Department so we had the immigration department consulting with us. They had proper consultation with us; I think about two times they had, just recently they had one. The principals were informed and proper documentations were given to them to give to these parents for them to fill it out properly and have their pictures and birth certificates from the students that are coming here and a fee as well was put in place. So we contacted these parents, we gave them the documents, they brought it in, we submitted it to the Ministry of Education and they submitted it to the Immigration Department. They did all that process and we informed the parents when they were going to be over at the border processing these things and making sure that these things are all in place.”

 

Eduardo Guerra manages the transportation of the students between Melchor and Benque. He has been doing this for the past thirty-five years, but with the new system in place, fifty percent of the commuting students who travel across the border for lunch are adversely affected by the new regulatory process.

 

Eduardo Guerra

Eduardo Guerra, Bus Driver

“They want to have a record of who is student and who is not student. For myself, I believe it is good; it is security for the children. Only because they don’t have the special machine that’s why it takes so long to process them.”

 

Duane Moody

“So how many children actually come across?”

 

Eduardo Guerra

“Across with the primary schools and high schools, it is six hundred and sixty-five.”

 

Duane Moody

“So the problem is the process that is slow?”

 

Eduardo Guerra

“The process is slow; that’s the only problem.”

 

Duane Moody

“Okay because we understand that some parents are kinda irate because they only have limited time to go home for their lunch.”

 

Eduardo Guerra

“Yes, especially at this hour; they only have forty-five minutes for lunch. From Benque to Melchor and come back, they only have forty-five minutes, but with this process, they only have twenty minutes for lunch.”

 

But the fact is that the students were being given a privilege—allowed to enter the country illegally—without any kind of travel documents or student permits to come to school. This new system in place regulates the process and also serves as a security control.

 

Melvin Manzanero

“Students were already back and forth, coming to our school with just crossing the border. But the main reason that this was put in place was for safety purposes. We’ve had people that use the uniforms—not only from this school, but from other surrounding schools as well—just to cross the border and also to conduct sometimes some illegal activities. So that’s why it was done. And I think that it will work for the safety of the students that come to our school; that’s the main importance. And also the parents from over the border, they could now have in the mind that the students are more safe to come to our school. And not only their students because we have students that are Belizeans that live over there and come to our school. even they are getting these kinds of IDs so that they are able to cross the border.”

 

There are students, Belizean and Guatemalan; that come from as far as Flores Peten to attend primary and high schools in the west. With the new border crossing system, their routine will simply need to adjust for them to reach to school on time.  Principal Manzanero says that today, the over two hundred and fifty students were punctual for classes.

 

Melvin Manzanero

“We have about two hundred and fifty or a little more that do come to our school on a daily basis. We actually have about four busses that bring them over to our school here—early in the morning to begin classes at eight-fifteen. They go back home at eleven-forty-five when the bell rings for lunch and they are quick in coming back again for one o’clock classes to resume again and eventually leave at three-thirty.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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5 Responses for “New Border Documentation Causes Hassles for Guat Parents”

  1. Joe says:

    As a belizean from the west, I can’t understand why they are punishing
    The children. They come to study, what harm could they do. Shame on our policies and people. Punishing the children is unacceptable.

  2. youserious says:

    Listen Joe, in what world do you live in? Can you name the six hundred plus children for us? You see, it is just to keep control of the legit students, before, anybody could smuggle children into Belize by simply putting on a uniform of a primary or secondary school. I agree that the government should have had enough resources before the implementation. The card as I was informed has a barcode atthe back, they can program a barcode reader to link with their computers and then just simply scan the barcode of the card, that would be faster than entering the info manualy in the computer.

  3. Damaris Botes says:

    Well it was about time it was done something up that side on d west. There’s nothing wrong with our policies and people,Yes i know kids want to study and better off themselves but thats no reason why them should come in and out illegally thats the right way to cross a border with legal document on hand. Here in the north side has always been like dat and even fi go wrk at the casinos here we hve to check out permits and passports and that’s we are belizeans!!! Going to wrk… knw hve extranjeros traveling in and out with out passport or permit wen we as belizeans no hve the rite fi cross without documents. Here are as wel mexicans dat hve kids studying and hve to pass d same policies and suffer the long day wait at a park or some where with snacks food. So i guess if we want our kids to better of themself we as parents hve to put alittle sand drop to the pail for the betterment of the kids just a thought!

  4. Eric says:

    Joe you mussi have Guatemalan family that’s why it affects u. This should have been done a long time ago, and I applaud the person who came up with this for security reasons. Enough of taking advantage of Belize by Guatemalan if they don’t like the system simply don’t send the kids here. Try going to Mexico as a belizean and see if you can cross the border just by saying you are a student and see what will happen. There is a procedure now and I hope they all respect it or don’t come here at all.

  5. John says:

    THOSE ARE THE POLICIES IN ALL OTHER COUNTRIES….EVEN IN GUATEMALA, NO STUDENT CANT JUST GO AND STUDY WITHOUT THE PROPER DOCUMENTATION!

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