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Jan 9, 2020

Migrants Lined Up at Constituency Office of U.D.P. Lake I Standard Bearer

Long lines of persons queued up at the office of the U.D.P. Lake Independence Standard Bearer, Dianne Finnegan since early this morning and on Wednesday though the main office of the Immigration Department is a stone’s throw away. Admittedly, the persons say they are getting assistance to get their immigration papers in order to acquire nationality.  All this ahead of a scheduled meeting with the Minister of Immigration, next week. Now, the issue of irregularities and illegalities in the system pushed by political operatives are well-known and documented. So with elections to be called sometime this year, the lines sent alarm bells ringing. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody with a report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

For the past two days, hundreds of migrants, primarily Hispanics from Central American countries, converged on Partridge Street in Belize City at the office of U.D.P. Lake Independence standard bearer, Dianne Finnegan. The line snaked along the sidewalk for almost a block – most with manila envelopes in hand carrying nationality applications, photocopies of birth certificates and passports; some even brandished passport-sized photographs of themselves and their family processed at a nearby photo lab—free of cost—before their documents are collated inside the political office of the standard bearer. Reminiscent of the illegal processing of migrants back in 2012, Finnegan says it is quite the opposite.


Dianne Finnegan

Dianne Finnegan, U.D.P. Standard Bearer, Lake Independence

“Over the weekend, I was in the Holy Emmanuel area and some of the residents approached me about one the length of time that it has been going on for them to get their papers. Some of them have been living in Belize for many years, but I guess when they go to the offices, it’s so challenging for them because they speak only Spanish and two, nobody is giving them the necessary information on what direction they need to take in order to get their papers processed. I have no knowledge of how that is done.”


According to several migrants we spoke with, they have been living in Belize for over a decade and have Belizean-born children. They are taking advantage of the opportunity to get their immigration status regularized.


Janet Hernandez

Janet Hernandez, Migrant

“I di hear yo could apply fi nationality. Long time I apply for nationality, from 2015 and nothing noh come in yet. So I will try and see if something could happen. I have my daughter right yah dah Belize and I got my life right yah.”


Duane Moody

“How long have you been living in Belize?”


Janet Hernandez

“Thirteen years.”


Maria Ramos

Maria Ramos, Migrant [Translated]

“I want to have nationality and I have a piece of property to the back and I want them to give me the land papers. I also have two Belizean daughters as well. They are treating us well. I’ve never voted, but if they give me my nationality, I will definitely vote.”


But it appears that migrants from across the country got word of the invitation by Finnegan and they too came to the office. So why deliver your documents to a constituency office and not the Immigration Department located at the Charles Bartlett Hyde building or, for that matter, at offices within each municipality? According to Finnegan, on Monday, a meeting will be held with Minister of State for Immigration at the Swift Hall where these persons will be able to share their concerns.


Dianne Finnegan

“I can’t process nobody’s papers Vaughn.”


Vaughn Gill

“So you are setting up people then?”


Dianne Finnegan

“I have not mentioned to anybody that I am processing their papers. They are here to get information to meet with the minister on Monday. She is the only person who can tell them how to go about getting their papers. Please don’t turn this into a political thing.”


Duane Moody

“A meeting with the minister has been organized for Monday, so what services are being provided to these persons today?”


Dianne Finnegan



Duane Moody

“So why are they here?”


Dianne Finnegan

“The only reason they are there, some of them brought their documents. There are a lot of them who already have their residency. Some of them have their receipts for their nationality, but it has taken such a long time. If you can help them to speed up the process to get their documents, why not?”


While Finnegan says that it is not of a political nature, it is known that if these migrants receive their nationality certificates prior to the general elections, they become eligible to register as voters. When we spoke with P.U.P. Chairman, Henry Charles Usher today, he says that the actions are concerning. Minister Beverly Williams conceded that it is part of a wider system to garner supporters come Election Day.


Duane Moody

“Is it a tactic being used to hey, we are helping you now, help us when general elections—mind you there is one upcoming?”


Beverly Williams

Beverly Williams, Minister of State, Immigration

“So why do you think I am sitting here? If I am providing a service, I can’t force anybody to vote for me. But you are hoping and genuinely providing service to people in need that people would say I was thankful and I see that I have some improvement, but you don’t know if they will vote for you. However, as I said, we are not fast tracking anything.  I don’t believe that Miss Finnegan will be able to do anything with those. Maybe she is collecting so it is an easier way for us to review in advising. We would look at those documents and advise. There will be nothing official issued at Swift Hall. It cannot be when it has to be processed in the computer. Some of those things go before a committee. Remember we have these committees. I always say immigration is a department of committees: the scrutinizing committee, the visa vetting committee. All of those go through a proper process before it comes to me for signature.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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