If you think American entities sometimes have trouble enforcing the immigration law, you should hear about how some other countries handle the challenge.
This week's prime example features the small Central American nation of Belize, with China, Cuba, and Haiti all playing supporting roles.
If other countries' migration-management agencies did their jobs carefully, it could be quite helpful to us, because a lot of the people violating the immigration law in Belize, for example, don't want to be in Belize at all, they want to be on their way to the U.S. There are always, as the Border Patrol puts it, OTMs being captured trying to enter the U.S. from south of the border, (OTM = other than Mexican).
Belize (the former British Honduras) and the United States have some things in common, such as the English language, African American heads of government with U.S. law degrees, and a border with Mexico. Their Prime Minister is Dean Barrow, our President is Barack Obama.
Belize, with a population of about a quarter of a million, is probably the only nation on the Western Hemisphere mainland without a daily newspaper. But it does have two fiercely competitive television news programs, Channels Five and Seven, from which I have extracted the following immigration law enforcement story.
Three charter flights from Haiti arrived in Belize, one or more after the local airport was closed for the night; the flights were said to be carrying 32 or 33 Japanese tourists. For reasons I do not understand, the Belize Immigration Department then issued a press release saying that there were some procedural errors in connection with these flights from Dominican Republic, the planes' home base.
The TV press pounced. The flights were from Haiti, not the DR, they pointed out, a "coverup" they said. According to Channel Seven:
. . .the release makes nothing of the absolute oddness of 32 Japanese tourists flying in on a private charter jet from earthquake-ravaged Haiti to Belize. We note that the number of Japanese visitors to Belize every year is so fractional it is not even recorded under an individual heading in Tourism Board statistics -- so to have received 32 in a three-week span is
anomalous . . .
. . .one of the so-called procedural irregularities is that no record was made of where the Japanese visitors got their visas. That is required documentation that should be made by the Immigration Department, but in all 32 cases it was not observed. With the known circulation of fake Belizean visas - this is more than a glaring oversight . . .
The TV station also noticed the follow-on activity: "If – as the release suggests – there are only procedural errors – then why is it that five of the 9 immigration officers at the airport were transferred today and two customs officers were called to the CIB office to be questioned this afternoon. We note that this [CIB] is the criminal investigations office."
The station wondered what happened to the "Japanese" tourists and noted: "And while all those are notable curiosities in what we can only conclude is a sanitized release -- for context we note that getting into Belize with a Japanese passport is infinitely simpler than doing it with a Chinese passport. First off, the cost of a single Belizean visa to a Chinese passport holder is twelve thousand dollars -- deterrence fees which are not levied on Japanese travelers."
The twelve thousand would be in Belizean dollars, which are worth about fifty cents American.
The next day it turned out that the TV newsmen were exactly right.
There were, in fact, 33 Chinese on the flights; they apparently were able to reach Cuba without difficulty from China, obtained questionable Belize visas either at the Belizean Embassy in Havana, or from Cuban counterfeiters, flew to Haiti (where the government probably places a low priority on screening visitors) and from there to Belize. Let's pick up the account from the statement of the nation's Minister of Police, Doug Singh, as quoted on Channel Seven:
...[as] our surveillance video camera demonstrates, each one of these passengers had a duffel bag, not a very large duffel bag that they carried with them as they entered the van that was waiting for them. The camera indicated that from landing, the plane landed at I believe 6:54 p.m., the camera that showed the individuals walking out the airport was at 7:07 p.m. In a matter of 12 or 13 minutes those individuals have landed, have been processed through immigration, processed through customs and had left the airport. Now you and I know that when we go through Phillip Goldson International Airport we don't get through that quickly. We suspect that what the ring does or what they do is pick up the individuals at the airport, they take them up north immediately, we believe if they do stay, they stay at the Princess Hotel at the free zone and they are whisked across the border perhaps within hours. So it is not our belief that these individuals spend very much more than 12 hours in this country."
Subsequently six immigration inspectors were fired and some were arrested.
Belize's northern border is with Mexico; it is bounded on the west by Guatemala. For more on these developments go to this site and look for the Channel Seven and Five news reports for October 11 and 12 dealing with immigration matters; direct electronic citations do not seem to be available.
Several comments: First, it is encouraging to see even in this not-very-enlightened Third World nation that the press sees some utility in immigration statistics, a subject I have mentioned perhaps too often in these blogs.
Second, even in such unlikely places as Phillip Goldson International, closed circuit TV cameras are quietly doing their thing.
Third, in Belize, blatant ethnic discrimination in immigration policy is alive and well. Japanese are regarded as rare and presumably well-funded tourists, and Chinese as potential and apparently unwelcome immigrants, so the Japanese arrive free (or with minimal fees), while it costs the Chinese an arm and a leg.
Fourth, for some understandable, and some obscure, reasons, when OTMs want to enter the U.S. as illegals, they often take roundabout routes, such as this group of Chinese now presumably traveling through Mexico on their way to the Rio Grande.
Fifth, there is a cosmopolitan aspect of many of the former members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. While Belize's dominant population consists of English-speaking Blacks, the Police Minister (Singh) carries what appears to be a Sikh name; Dean Barrow's predecessor as prime minister was Said Musa, who is of Palestinian origin.
Speaking of Haiti and ex-Brit colonies, as we were, the U.S. does have one highly competent ally in migration control, the Bahamian Defense Force. It, like our Coast Guard, intercepts smuggling ships and repatriates Haitians to Cap Haïtien, as the press reports from time to time.