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May 30, 2017

New Belizeans Take the Oath

The hassle of applying for Belizean citizenship, in some cases several years in the making, has paid for a handful of immigrants who have found their home in the Jewel.  From as far away as Turkey and Bangladesh, they have traveled to Belize and decided to stay.  The swearing-in ceremony got off to a late start, but the men and women who were about to become naturalized citizens sat it out a few minutes longer.  In the end, C.E.O. Edmund Zuniga stood in for Minister of State Beverly Williams.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano was in Belmopan for this afternoon’s ceremony.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Thirty-six new Belizeans, two of whom are presently employed in the medical field, were sworn in this afternoon in Belmopan.  It’s the second ceremony to be held by the Immigration and Nationality Department since the beginning of the year.  While it was a rather small group, the cohort represents countries within the Central American and Caribbean region, as well as those that are far-flung.  Kelechi Onuoha is a transplant from Nigeria.

 

Kelechi Onuoha, Naturalized Belizean

“I’ve been in Belize for like about nine years now and I actually wanted to come and study and all that and when I looked around and I found out that Belize is an English-speaking country like Nigeria.  So that would be very, very easy for me.  So when I came down here and then I finally fell in love with the country because Belizeans are so loving and the land is so rich and the land is so conducive to me and from then I decided to naturalize in Belize.”

 

Kelechi Onuoha

Isani Cayetano

“Was this a difficult process?  Was this a lengthy one in becoming a naturalized Belizean?”

 

Kelechi Onuoha

“Well I can‘t say it‘s a difficult process per se, but then, basically due to the passport scandal and all that that was, that actually kept it back a little bit but then it‘s not something that is so difficult.”

 

Deputizing on behalf of Minister of State Beverly Williams was CEO Edmund Zuniga.  The ceremony was held outside of the Immigration Department, a change from the George Price and Belmopan Civic centers.

 

Edmund Zuniga

Edmund Zuniga, C.E.O., Ministry of Immigration

“This is the first time we‘re actually doing this swearing-in right here at our department.  Usually we would have you here all day, have you in the morning signing up your papers and in the afternoon we take you over to the George Price Center or the Civic Center but we didn‘t want to sweat you out today so we’ve got the fresh breeze, we have a nice awning that we are doing it under and so this is a good change.”

 

American national Jeffrey Kessler fell in love with Belize while doing some volunteer work in the country.  His decision to stay was largely influenced by his wife.

 

Jeffrey Kessler

Jeffrey Kessler, Naturalized Belizean

“I came down here as a VS worker.  I came down to work at a mission and I met a girl down here and fell in love and married her and that‘s why I am where I am today.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“How long has this process been for you, in trying to become a Belizean and then waiting for the paperwork to be processed?”

 

Jeffrey Kessler

“Right about four years from when I first applied for citizenship.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“And what are your intentions going forward?  You‘re now a full-fledged Belizean, you have the right to vote and to enjoy other benefits of being an official member of this country.  What‘s next for you?”

 

Jeffrey Kessler

“I hope to be a benefit to this country and I hope to start a business and move forward and build my life here and be a help for the country.”

 

So too has Doctor Robert Novak who has been living in Belize for the past nineteen years.

 

Robert Novak

Robert Novak, Naturalized Belizean

“I actually came down here because when I went to college the sister city for Belize City was Lansing, Michigan.  So I came here in 1971.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Why has it taken so long for you to decide to become a naturalized Belizean citizen?”

 

Robert Novak

“Overall I‘ve spent nineteen years here in this country, but I‘ve worked in a lot of other countries, including Africa.  My wife and I got married here in 1992.  She died about four years ago and I figured, well this is more home than anywhere else that I have.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Why Belize, as opposed to any other country that you‘ve been to over the many years?”

 

Robert Novak

“Because I‘ve got a lot of friends here.  It‘s a good reason.  I like the islands, as well as the interior.  I‘ve worked all over the whole country.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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