BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Thurs. Feb. 2, 2017 – – A whopping 2,110 immigrants, mostly Guatemalan nationals, received Belizean nationality certificates between October 2011 and February 2012.
According to former Immigration Director, Ruth Meighan, as a result these persons were able to register and vote in the 2012 General Elections which the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) lost by a total of 812 votes according to Opposition Leader, John Briceño.
According to Meighan, those persons did not satisfy requirements for nationality and should not have been granted nationality certificates.
2,110 immigrants received Belizean nationality for 2012 general elections; PUP lost by 812 votes
Senior Immigration Officer, Gordon Wade, on Wednesday told the Senate Select Committee that the issuance of nationality to those individuals was largely the decision of the Director and/or the Minister, who, according to him, may have held a different interpretation of Section 10 of the Nationality Act.
Here is the portion of the exchange in which Wade made those comments:
Senator Eamon Courtenay: “You had an opportunity to hear Ms. Maria Marin’s testimony before this testimony?”
Wade: “…I saw little pieces on the news.”
Courtenay: “You heard her refer to a culture in the department?”
Wade: “Yes, I did.”
Courtenay: “Are you aware of any such culture?”
Wade: “The Director, at her level, would have certain discretionary powers…a simple example is in the application for registration through Section 10 where the requirements ask that you be ordinarily residing in Belize for five years. In my view, if you show 5 years in Belize I would make note of that. If you couldn’t show five legal years in Belize and you would have shown maybe you have 2 or 3 children in Belize attending school and I would forward that to the Director, that the person isn’t able to show 5 legal years living in Belize, but has presented proof of being in Belize by having three children born here; then they would have that power to decide that is ordinarily residence.”
Courtenay: “To paraphrase Ms. Marin, there was a culture of irregularity. Are you aware of that?
Wade: “The law was just saying you need to be in Belize ordinarily [for 5 years]. Their interpretation is what allowed that file to proceed. That is what I view as the culture.”
Courtenay: “What do you understand ordinarily resident in Belize to mean?”
Wade: “In my view it means legally living in Belize.”
Courtenay: “So a person who is ordinarily resident here would ordinarily have to have a house or somewhere he or she is living in Belize?”
Wade: “…Yes, Sir.”
Courtenay: “If they have children, their children would have to be in school in Belize?”
Wade: “That’s right.”
Courtenay: “And more than likely employed or have their own business in Belize?”
Wade: “That’s right.”
Courtenay: “Specifically, it is your evidence that you are aware that a number of these specific files were approved on the basis of an interpretation of Section 10 with which you disagreed?”
Courtenay: “It was the Director and/or the Minister above you who looked at ordinarily resident [people] and they put an interpretation on it [the files] which is not an interpretation that is consistent with your 27 years’ experience?”
Senator Aldo Salazar: “Is it correct to suggest that the majority of these files were irregular?”
Wade: “In the Director’s and the Minister’s eyes, having children going to school, living in Belize, having other Belizeans attesting to know you for a certain time meant to them five ordinary years living in Belize. So I don’t know if that is considered an irregularity.”