Editorial — 23 November 2016
Diaspora danger

Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in.
– Robert Frost (1875-1963)

Home is the place where we are treated the best, but grumble the most.
– Unknown source

Increasingly, as he picks his cabinet from among his fawning loyalists, it is becoming clear that by “Make America Great Again,” he actually meant some version of “Make America a White, Racist, Misogynistic Patriarchy Again.” It would be hard to send a clearer message to women and minorities that this administration will be hostile to their interests than the cabinet he is now assembling.
– Charles M. Blow in The New York Times of Monday, November 21, 2016

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English describes the root meaning of the word “Diaspora” as “the dispersal of the Jews among the Gentiles mainly in the 8th – 6th c BC.” A secondary meaning of “Diaspora” refers to “any group of people similarly dispersed.” To “disperse” means to “go, send, drive, or distribute in different directions or over a wide area.” To disperse, then, means to scatter.

The most significant dispersal or scattering of the Belizean people began after Hurricane Hattie in 1961, and the largest section of the Belizean Diaspora began to settle in the major cities of the United States, such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. Today, many Belizeans also live in Houston, Atlanta, Miami, and so on.

Whereas the Jewish people always viewed their dispersal or scattering as a great misfortune or tragedy, we Belizean people saw our scattering in the United States as essentially providing us with economic opportunity. The American economy was the largest in the world, and at the time when our Belizean people began to migrate to the United States in droves 55 years ago, the vast majority of Belizeans had been and were living without indoor running water, without sewerage systems, and without motor vehicles in British Honduras. Very, very few Belizeans had washing machines or dryers. There was no television in B. H. in 1961, and just one radio station – a monopoly of the government. Belizeans, then, did not view our scattering to the United States as misfortune: rather, it was fabulous opportunity.

Let us say, just for argument’s sake, that a large number of Belizean families living in the United States are now comprised of three generations, and let us say, again for argument’s sake, that there are perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 people in the U.S. who have a Belizean consciousness. The question in November 2016 is how many of these Diaspora Belizeans would be in danger of being deported from the U.S. back to Belize under an anti-immigrant, ethnic-cleansing type of American administration.

Traditionally, the acquiring of the so-called “green card,” establishing one’s status in the United States as a “permanent resident,” was considered adequate protection against being arbitrarily sent back home to Belize. In a Friday morning interview on KREM Radio/Television, however, the former UBAD Party Secretary-General, Norman Fairweather, who now lives in New Jersey, said that Belizean green card holders may be deported for mere misdemeanors, as opposed to only being deported for major felonies.

Donald J. Trump, who consistently expressed anti-immigrant sentiments during his presidential campaign, was elected President of the United States on Tuesday, November 8, and will be sworn in as the 45th U.S. President on January 20 of 2017.
While we all knew that a Trump presidency would cause serious anxiety for all undocumented Belizean immigrants in the U.S., the notion that green card holders also have to be concerned adds to apprehension and uncertainty amongst Belizeans both in Belize and in the United States.

We have been saying at this newspaper for some years now that the development of modern communications technology has provided an important opportunity for Belizeans in the United States to organize themselves across the continental United States. In response to incidents of Guatemalan aggression in the Chiquibul Reserve and on the Sarstoon River last year, Los Angeles Belizeans led the way in organizing protests and town meetings. New York Belizeans then began efforts at organizing, but Chicago Belizeans, Houston Belizeans, New Orleans Belizeans, and Miami Belizeans did not stand up to be counted. It was clear that, overall, the level of networking amongst Belizeans in America is poor.

It appears to us that it is needless to say that the responsibility for such networking falls, in the first instance, on the shoulders of the Government of Belize. Governments of Belize, comprised as Belize’s governments are of politicians elected by Belizeans resident in Belize, have never felt that such a networking of Belizeans deserved any effort on Cabinet’s part. In fact, way back in the 1960s and 1970s, the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) leaders actually felt that Belizeans resident in the United States, especially in New York and Chicago, were generally hostile to the George Price administration. Today, the leaders of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) may feel that the potential economic benefits to be derived from a networking of Belizean Americans may not be worth the political risks of such a new conglomeration which might resist influence and control down the road.

The sociological implications of the dispersal of Belizeans to the United States have really not been examined by Belizean scholars. The only thing everybody agrees upon, because it is so obvious, is that that dispersal caused a change of Belize’s population from a black majority one to a black minority demographic. But there were human dramas taking place on the micro level with respect to the splitting up of families and traumas for personal relationships. Economically, the question was never asked: did the remittances from America compensate for the socio-economic cost of Belize’s losing so many young and mature adults in the prime of their productive years?

Now a new paradigm emerges here. With Belize’s economy reeling and confronted by worse challenges in the coming months and years, how would, how could, the macro society deal with absorbing thousands of potential deportees? For sure at the micro level, each affected family would have responsibility for its own. This is fundamental, and traditional here. But so many of these same families were shattered by the very scattering to America itself, that the public sector would experience major stresses, immediately and primarily in the crime and violence areas which are already at civil war levels.

The Government of Belize has not commented publicly on the implications for Belizean Americans and for Belize of a Donald Trump presidency. We have to believe, nevertheless, that discussions have begun amongst Barrow administration leaders concerning such implications, and what pre-emptive moves Belize can begin to make. Pre-emptive, not in terms of preventing what Mr. Trump intends to do, but with respect to Belizeans becoming informed and conscious about the change in America.

The United States of America’s sneeze on November 8 was a white, racist sneeze: many Belizeans are not only undocumented immigrants, they are also black ones. Such Belizeans are presently threatened with pneumonia. The American future for such Belizeans is a bleak one. But what about their Belizean future? This may be classic Scylla and Charybdis.

Power to the people.

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