For some weeks now I have been wanting to write a column about Belizeans who have been deported from the United States of America. The first thing I wanted to say was that at Kremandala we have a few deportees employed, and they are some of our best workers. I hesitated in writing such a column, however, because I didn’t want to create the impression that Kremandala is in a position to assist deportees in general.
In Belize, we citizens have been traumatized by the Belizeans who are addicted to crack cocaine. We are afraid to greet people or reach out to them in the streets, because if you greet a crack addict, no matter who he/she used to be or what his/her relationship was to you, it will cost you money. There is a frenzy in crack addicts when they are in heat, as it were, and it seems as if they are always in heat. They are in desperate need of money to buy crack, which is the only medicine that can soothe their pain, but only for a little while.
Because we are literally frightened by the crack addicts and because sometimes it is difficult to differentiate quickly between an addict and somebody who is just a needy person, we don’t help as many people as we would like to. Thus it is that when deportees began to come on the Belize City scene in significant numbers some ten, fifteen years ago, it was not a warm welcome that they received. And, the deportees felt the chill. They live very much below the radar.
The thing is, every one of these deportees has a story, and some of the stories are very interesting, others are heart-rending, and some, I would imagine, are disturbing in various ways. The stereotype of the deportee is a Belizean who decided to sell drugs or engage in some other criminal activity, then was arrested and sentenced for a lengthy jail term in America, after which he was shipped home to Belize. But, more and more in America you can be deported for committing a minor crime or misdemeanor if your papers are not in order. And there are many Belizeans who have been living and working in the States for decades and decades and decades whose papers are not in order.
I finally decided to put pen to paper on the subject now, because I ran into a Belizean last Friday afternoon whom I hadn’t seen in 40 years. My younger brother Charles had told me a couple months ago that this brother had been deported because of a relatively minor problem, and that he was embarrassed about his situation and reluctant to look up old friends. In 1972, Michael Finnegan had organized a football team, Diamond A, which included two of my brothers – the late Migale (Michael) and the younger Chilor (Charles). This deportee had been one of the players, a very popular guy because he was always so upbeat and high-spirited. Before the season really got underway, however, this brother had split for America, I guess “through the back”.
I never presume to think or talk for Belizeans in the United States because, although I spent three years in America, I was not in the grain, so to speak. I always qualify anything I say about Belizean Americans by remarking that this would be only a personal opinion. So, here I go again. I think that the great majority of the young Belizeans who reached the United States had not really looked back. Any return they envisaged would be a long way down the road, after they had conquered America, after which they might visit Belize in glory. On the UBAD rostrum four decades ago, I used to advise young Belizeans to consider the possibility, when they were leaving for America, that they might want to come back home, sooner or later. I don’t think many were paying attention to such advice.
In any case, I finally ran into this deportee I was telling you about. I didn’t recognize him at first, but he was well. Our looks change after 40 years, you know. A lot of water had passed under the bridge. I think that if Mr. Goldson were alive, this is something he would have considered – how to look more closely at the deportee situation and figure out what to do about it. There are all kinds of stories, but one common denominator – these are Belizeans. America chewed them up and spat them out. Cold.
For sure those deportees made mistakes of one kind and another. But all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory. Questions need to be asked. How many of the deportees are there? How do they live? What skills do they have? I can see that those deportees who are employed at Kremandala have a strong work ethic, and I assume that they learned that work ethic in America. A work ethic is a good start on the road to survival. For real.