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Jan 16, 1998

G. Michael Reid has the last word on deported criminals.

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He spent almost twenty years in the States so he’s no stranger to the subject of Belizeans in America. Or, more precisely, Belizeans coming home from America.

“On October 30th, 1961, just one day before the close of the hurricane season, Hattie slammed into Belize, a tempestuous rage. Absorbing the heft of the hit was Belize City and Dangriga, with over eighty percent of all homes in those two localities either destroyed or severely damaged and with two hundred forty-two lives being lost. Although this number of dead was relatively small compared to the two and a half thousand who lost their lives in the unnamed storm of 1931, the fact is that when all things are considered, the actual death toll from Hattie might have long surpassed 31′s figure and can be considered in fact, to be still climbing.

As traumatic an experience as 1931′s disaster must have been, our forbearers stayed with the ship and putting their noses to the grindstone had her back in sailing condition long before Hattie once again, left us split upon a rock.

After Hattie however, and in fact no sooner had the green flag been raised over courthouse, than two flights a day even, weren’t enough to sustain the flow of ex-patriots scurrying to leave the bay. Seems that two such storms in a single century was as much as some could bear. Those who couldn’t get visas, boarded the underground railroad and journeyed through the perilous hills of Mexico to enter via the back door. With most of the emigrants being black or kriol, and most having a fair command of the English language, we blended rather easily into America?s colored grain and hereafter would begin the epic saga of the so-called Belizean-Americans.

Many of those who left had already started families in Belize, but with the need to travel lightly, children had to be left behind with grandparents, relatives or even friends. This in itself would have been enough to create social disorganization, but when we look at the entire picture, it has proven to be in fact, just the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

The majority who reached this land of new opportunity, settled into the big urban cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York and once in their new surroundings, were able to get jobs and before long, barrels, boxes and American eagles were flying in with regularity. Many families hitherto improvised, experienced a considerable rise in their standard of living and in that respect, the exodus paid off handsomely. Whether or not however, the benefits have been enough to offset the encumbrance is a question that we might yet have to answer.

As soon as they were able to, many parents who reached the states started sending back for their children. It is here that we must note, that the environment that greeted these children, was a far cry from the credulous, simplistic lifestyle that they were used to. This was America where one out of every three children between the ages of twelve and seventeen stands a chance of being raped, robbed or mugged and one out of every twenty-eight males in the black neighborhoods where most settled is likely to be murdered. A few adjusted well and today, many live comfortably and firmly imbedded in the mainstream of the American culture, but for many however, the culture shock was just too intense. As we look around today, we see many victims to this circumstance. We see them on drugs, in jail or just walking around in a daze. Most if not all serious crimes committed in Belize today, especially those where guns are used and people are killed, are done so by offenders who have been exposed to America?s nefarious side and it might not be too outlandish then, to add such deaths to the toll caused by Hattie.

Many of these delinquents who have introduced into our society these ills that we endure are in fact, more American that Belizean and have lived most of their lives in the dolorous streets of Harlem, South Central L.A. or the south side of Chicago. By right then, I believe it is America who should establish some sort of rehabilitation program for these wayward degenerates before dumping them on us, but if she doesn’t then we will certainly have to. With America?s new tough immigration laws, legal status or not, if convicted of a crime, it’s sayonara. The New York press reported a few weeks ago, a story of Belizean gangs being busted on the streets of Harlem. They will be tried, and if convicted will do their time after which they will be returning to Belize. Many of the same parents who had struggled and sacrificed so hard to get them there will not be sad to see them leave, but unless Belizeans formulate a plan to deal with the situation, we might all be made sad, once they arrive. Some have suggested the army and that might not be a bad idea, for a couple years of discipline, might be all that some of these guys need to put their lives on a positive track. One thing is for sure, if we are to maintain some sort of peaceful existence, we cannot allow dissenting forces to take control of our communities.

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Viewer comments are welcome.

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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