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Apr 15, 2008

“Life After Deportation” is cautionary tale

Story PictureThe release of a CD by a local artist is not particularly big news, nor is the return of a deportee from the United States. But when you combine the two occurrences and add a compelling autobiographical story line, you’ve got an interesting tale. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.

Marion Ali, Reporting
Like Tupac Shakur, it could be said that Belizean hip hop artist Berne Velasquez predicted his own fate on his DVD/CD release called Life after Deportation. At the age of thirteen, Velasquez and his family illegally migrated to the U.S. Years later, he managed to obtain a green card, and soon after, his career began to take shape.

Berne Velasquez, Deported Hip-Hop Artist
“What I was doing in America, walking around with my CD for a long time and just trying to get it in the right people’s hands and get the people to support me and that’s how I ended up getting to where I was.”

And where he was really was among the rich and famous, getting a first hand taste of the good times.

Berne Velasquez
“The life you see on BET with these artists flossing and showing off and having all the bling-bling and the nice house and fancy cars, yes, I’ve been there and I’ve had some of those luxuries, you know what I mean. I’ve really enjoyed—my opportunity of being in America has been a blessing for me in a lot of ways cause I’ve enjoyed things that I thought I could only dream about.”

But Velasquez also dreamt of other things, which made him reflect on the lives of people who, just like him, enter the U.S. illegally everyday seeking a better life.

Berne Velasquez
“I see the lifestyle and I see what they go through, so me always wanting to ride with the bottom crowd, I always go with the underdog, I felt their pain being an immigrant myself from Belize so for me to go ahead and relate to that was very easy.”

What wasn’t easy for Velasquez was coming to grips with the fact that the same circumstances that inspired his music would eventually doom him. After twenty-three years of the luxurious life, he would also become the subject of deportation.

Berne Velasquez
“I never thought it could happen to me. I never thought oh Berne … I’m too big for that, that’s what I thought, you know what I mean? So it’s a humbling experience and it’s a reality check.”

What landed Velasquez in the detention cell in 2006 was a guilty plea to possession of stolen mail. That, coupled with his illegal entry records was enough to earn him the one way ticket to his old home. But this artist feels his experiences can be a lesson for others.

Berne Velasquez
“I was doing modeling for Ras Judah Clothing and I was going to be the only male model they were gonna be using. And now Snoop, Akon, Kanye West, they’re using those guys, you know what I mean? To lose that it’s just reality but that’s just the business and things happen for a reason so I don’t sit back and mope at it. I just try to look at it, learn from it and grow.”

Now that he’s back, Velasquez says his deportation has also taught him a hard lesson: that all that glitters isn’t always gold.

Berne Velasquez
“Those things that a lot of us go to America to chase are things that keep us away from the things that are really important in this life, like our loved ones, our family, you know, our kids, our parents, those are the things that are most important. I regret that I was compromising my family and my loved ones for chasing those material things. But now that I look back on it, it’s all just coming together and sometimes they say you gotta go through certain things to be able to grow.”

Now that he has come a full circle, Velasquez says he intends to use his successes and life experiences to help other Belizean musicians market their talent. Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

Velasquez says he wants to start a programme to integrate deported Belizeans back into society. Life after Deportation is available at most music stores for thirty dollars a copy.

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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