Features — 16 March 2019 — by Andrew Enriquez
Shining some light on the number of Belizeans in the United States

We are living in an era in which immigrants in the United States are being cast as violent criminals, refugees as terrorists, and the border as being in desperate need of a wall. The administration in Washington has painted a grim picture of immigrants and the mantra of American immigration is no longer “Give me, your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” President Trump and his Republican allies are proposing immigration changes that are in direct contradiction to bedrock principles of the American immigration system.

As Congress considers new immigration legislation, family-based immigration has been placed in the crosshairs of the proposed legislative agenda. By calling for an end to the so-called “chain migration” they are threatening to repeal the laws that allows green-card holders to sponsor their spouse and unmarried kids for permanent residency and to limit the practice of American citizens petitioning for their parents, adult children and siblings.

Family reunification or “chain migration” is the number one path to permanent residency for Belizeans in the United States. In 2017 alone, of the 754 Belizeans obtaining lawful permanent residency, a whopping 694 were sponsored by family members.

In the midst of this contentious and polarizing debate, the categories of deportable crimes are being expanded and the overall immigration policies are being weaponized against large swaths of immigrants in the United States.

While not directly related, after three years of Belize being on the list of countries deemed to be very soft on human-trafficking, without any measurable improvement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended the H-2A and H-2B visa program with Belize. A program, that during the 2016 fiscal year, saw 299 Belizeans being issued these temporary or seasonal non-immigrant work visas, 276 of which were in non-agricultural work and 23 in seasonal agricultural work.

With the drastically shifting landscape of American immigration policy as a backdrop, the time has come for an informed and in-depth look into some of the key statistics as it relates to Belizeans in the States, especially since the United States can be considered as Belize’s “7th district,” hosting the largest Belizean community outside of Belize, estimated to be between 75,000 and 110,000, not including those by descent. The following figures present just a spotlight on Belizeans in the United States.

How many Belizeans recently went for short-term visits to the United States?

 According to DHS estimates, 31,340 Belizeans were reportedly admitted to the United States in 2017. These included 28,496 tourists and business travelers, 736 students and exchange visitors, 447 temporary workers and families and 726 diplomats/representatives.

What percent of Belizeans’ visitor visas applications was rejected in 2018?

Of the total number of Belizean visitor visa applications, 35% were rejected as compared to 54% of the applicants in neighboring Guatemala and 52% in El Salvador.

How many Belizeans who are living abroad visit the U.S.A.?

In 2017, the total number of Belizeans living abroad who were admitted to the United States was 5,596.

How many Belizeans were recently deported from the U.S.?

In 2014, a total of 129 Belizeans were deported; in 2015, a total 134 Belizeans were deported and in 2016, a total of 144 Belizeans were deported, including 84 who had criminal records and 60 who had no criminal record. In fiscal year 2017, ICE removed 82 Belizeans.

How many Belizeans became U.S. citizens since 2006?

 Over the 11-year period between 2006 and 2017, 9,265 Belizeans became U.S citizens. Between 1988 and 2017, the total number of Belizeans who were naturalized is 25,671.

How many Belizeans obtained Green Cards in 2017?

In 2017, the number of Belizeans who received their Green Cards was 754, of which 247 were in California, 64 in Florida, 71 in Illinois and 131 in the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA region. Of the 754 who received their green cards, 746 were born in Belize.

How many Belizeans obtained their Green Cards since Hurricane Hattie? Since Hattie 54,457 Belizeans got green cards. The total number of Belizeans who were issued green cards from the period 1900 to 2017 is 57,870.

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Deshawn Swasey

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