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US bans Belize from getting Work Visas #528369
01/18/18 06:05 AM
01/18/18 06:05 AM
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US Bans Haiti, Belize and Samoa from Temporary Visas

The decision by Homeland Security was announced less than a week after Trump asked why the U.S. had to take in immigrants from "shithole" countries.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday that Belize, Haiti and Samoa will no longer be eligible for temporary work visas. The announcement is scheduled to be published by the Federal Register on Thursday, exactly a week after U.S. President Donald Trump referred to African nations and Haiti as "shithole" countries during an Oval Office meeting on immigration reform.

During the meeting where the president discussed the status of the roughly 800,000 immigrants who had benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, by shielding them from deportation, which was terminated by his administration, Trump had reportedly questioned why the U.S. needs to take in immigrants from "shithole" countries, rather than from countries like Norway sparking criticism by lawmakers and social and political actors who slammed Trump's racism and overall immigration policies.

The H-2A and H-2B visas given to seasonal workers in agriculture and other industries are available to citizens of 80 countries. Haiti had been included in that list since 2012, after a successful lobbying campaign by humanitarian groups and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to make Haiti eligible for short-term worker visas that could help Haitians recover from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

DHS’s official notice provides reasons for the elimination of each country. In the case of Belize the notice cites concerns over human trafficking and for Samoa it claims the Samoan government does not cooperate in accepting back their nationals once they've been ordered to leave the U.S..

Source

Re: US bans Belize from getting Work Visas [Re: Marty] #528392
01/19/18 06:04 AM
01/19/18 06:04 AM
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US Revokes Belize’s Eligibility for Seasons Workers’ Visas

One week after US President Donald Trump allegedly referred to African nations and Haiti as "shithole countries", the US has revoked Belize's eligibility for workers visas. On Tuesday, the Federal Register published a decision of the Department of Homeland Security to remove Belize, Haiti and Samoa from the list of counties whose citizens can get an H2 or workers visa.   

Now, these are not the regular visitors or tourist visas, known as B-1 and B-2 visas.  The H2 visa allows US businesses to bring in workers from other countries: H-2A is for agriculture and the H-2B is for non-agricultural seasonal work in places such as resorts.

Last year, the US Embassy in Belmopan issued 299 of those H-2 visas to Belizeans.

And the reason?  Well, officially, the Federal Register says, "Belize is listed on the U.S. Department of State's 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report as a Tier 3'' country. Tier 3'' means the country does not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so." 

Attorney General Mike Peyreffite had a thing or two to say about that.  He attended a Human Trafficking seminar in late 2017 to try and get Belize off that odious Tier 3 list.  He spoke with us today and made it clear that he's disappointed by the temporary ban::

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Attorney General
"I was only just now made aware of the report. I noticed that they only mentioned we had human trafficking issues. My guess - it stems from the fact that we were - because of last year's, somehow - put on tier 3, when it comes to human trafficking, which is not a good place to be in terms of ranking of human trafficking. And so, I guess, on that basis, they are limiting people from Belize to go to the US. I find it kind of strange the tier 3 thing because many nations have similar arrest records and conviction rates, and detention records as Belize, but yet, they're on tier one. So, I don't know what the real issue is as to why we are on tier 3. The second thing is that I find it very perplexing that the US would take a position to restrict people coming into their country like that because I know for sure that they always pressure us. They always pressure our immigration department to accept people from any and everywhere. So, why don't they accept people the way they want Belize to accept people from Central America and other countries. So, while it is what it is, it's their country. They allow who they want in their country, but I have to say that it is cowardly and very hypocritical to say the least. The tier 3 ranking comes from results and studies done in 2016, and that's what created the tier 3 ranking. There will be another ranking assessment in the coming month or 2. And, that will be determined by what their investigations reveal as to what happened in 2017. So, the meeting I had in DC with the State Department and with the Attorney General's office had nothing to do with our activity since then, or what were trying to do up until this point. We have done several things that were  required and suggested a consultant specially assigned to us. We have assigned a police unit to Human Trafficking, a special Supreme Court judge, a special magistrate, members in the Attorney General's Ministry and a specialize prosecutor. So, many of the things that were required for the powers that be to indicated to that we are complying with human trafficking efforts have been. So, it will be interesting to see, given what we have done so far, what will be done. So, it will be interesting to see, given what we have done so far, what will be the ranking for 2017, since I've taken office, and since we've been working together with the Human Development Ministry to see what will be the result of all of that. Indeed, it will be very disappointing if given all the efforts we're making, and given all the commitments we've made, that we remain at tier 3 at the next ranking session."

The ban lasts for a year, and eligibility for these H-2 visas will be reviewed again in January 2019.  

Belize and Venezuela re the only countries in this hemisphere on the Tier 3 list.  It also includes mainland China and Russia.  

Seasoned observers of diplomatic gamesmanship say that they aren't surprised that this slight comes right after Belize voted in favour of the UN Resolution challenging the US for moving its Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem.

Channel 7


Re: US bans Belize from getting Work Visas [Re: Marty] #528396
01/19/18 06:34 AM
01/19/18 06:34 AM
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We reached out to the US Embassy in Belize for more information and clarity on the ban of US temporary work visas for Belizeans. The Embassy's response is below, as well as some links that may provide more useful information for you.

H-2 Visa Program Update for Belize

As required by federal regulations of the United States, each year the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may consider adding or removing a country to the H-2 visa eligible country list by notice published in the Federal Register and valid for one year.

Pursuant to the Federal Register Notice (FRN) published and effective January 18, 2018, "the following countries should no longer be designated as eligible countries because they are not meeting the standards set out in the regulation: Belize, Haiti, and Samoa."

When designating countries to include on the list, DHS, with the Department of State's concurrence, takes into account a country's cooperation with issuing travel documents for the citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country who are subject to a final order of removals along with other factors.

Specifically, Belize is listed on the U.S. Department of State's 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report as a "Tier 3" country. "Tier 3" means the country does not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.

Accordingly, DHS has removed Belize from the H-2A and H-2B eligibility lists for 2018. DHS may receive a recommendation from the Department of State or a written request from the Government of Belize or an employer that would like to hire nationals of Belize in H-2A status, or another interested party or parties.

In FY 16, the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan processed 299 H-2 visas. Precise figures on H-2 visa issuances can be found on the travelstate.gov website link below.

FRN:
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/18/2018- 00812/identification-of-foreign-countries-whose-nationals-are-eligible-to-participate-in-the-h-2a-and-h-2b

CFR:
https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0- 11261/0-0-0-17197/0-0-0-18298.html

Visa Stats:
https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/Non-Immigrant-Statistics/NIVDetailTables/FY16%20NIV%20Detail%20Table.pdf

TIP Report:
https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2017/index.htm

POCs:
USCIS: uscis.media@uscis.dhs.gov or DHS: mediainquiry@dhs.gov


Re: US bans Belize from getting Work Visas [Re: Marty] #528418
01/20/18 05:57 AM
01/20/18 05:57 AM
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Hon. Elrington Says US Work Visa Eligibility Revocation for Belizeans Isolated

We also took the opportunity to ask Elrington about the ban that the US Department of Homeland Security placed on Belizeans who are no longer eligible to get H2 or work visas.

The US Department of Homeland Security published a decision that Belize, Haiti and Samoa are to be put on a list of countries whose citizens can't get this class of visas.

The ban will last for 1 year, at least and the US Government's reason for it is that the authorities here are not doing enough to combat human trafficking. The Federal Register says, quote, "Belize is listed on the U.S. Department of State's 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report as a Tier 3'' country. Tier 3'' means the country does not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so."

This ban comes a month after the UN General Assembly vote where Belize joined 127 countries challenging the US for moving its Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem. Seasoned observers aren't surprised, and they suspect that the ban is connected to that. We asked Elrington about the possible co-relation, and he told us that from his perspective, there is none. Here's how he explained why he thinks it is pure co-incidence:

Daniel Ortiz
"Has that crossed your mind as Foreign Minister, or is that completely..."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs
"No, actually, the Americans have indicated why. They have decided not to grant the visas, and the reason they are giving is that we have not complied with their expectation in terms of the human trafficking. That is something that they had been warning us about for some time now Human trafficking issue is a matter of grave concern to us, and it's also a grave concern to them. And they have formed the view, rightly or wrongly, that we are not doing sufficiently to satisfy them that in fact, we are serious about it. And so, with a view to try to pressure us to be more proactive in dealing with this very serious issue, they've decided to limit grant - or restrained, or restrict the granting of visas - certain type of visas at this time."

Daniel Ortiz
"So, for you, it's purely coincidental that those things happened in close proximity, in terms of timelines."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington
"To my mind, [yes]."

You saw how Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte wasn't too pleased to learn about the ban. He has been working with the Government agencies to do all they can strengthen to Belize's systems, so that the country can better combat human trafficking. So, what is Elrington's perspective as the Former Attorney General? Here's the back and forth on that:

Daniel Ortiz
"Do you agree with that perspective, or is that an unreasonable conclusion to be drawn?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Certainly, I am aware of the fact that it is a matter which is discussed from time to time in our Cabinet, and I do know that the Attorney General has been working assiduously to try to deal with the matter. And it's something that I have talked to the police, since I have become responsible for them. These are issues which we have raised, but society has limitations, you know. We have serious limitations, and so, we may just not be able to do much more than we are doing. But, it is not because we are not trying. We have resource limitations. My own sense is that certainly, since Minister Peyrefitte became the AG, he has really been active in trying to ensure that we do all in our power to try to combat that scourge. But, as I said, we have our limitations."

Channel 7


Re: US bans Belize from getting Work Visas [Re: Marty] #528425
01/20/18 07:01 AM
01/20/18 07:01 AM
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Re: US bans Belize from getting Work Visas [Re: Marty] #528471
01/23/18 04:23 AM
01/23/18 04:23 AM
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AG Peyrefitte criticizes US’s banning of H2 work visas as “”cowardly and hypocritical”

FM Elrington says Belize has “serious limitations” in combating human trafficking; the Opposition Leader says it’s simply UDP corruption and incompetence

The US Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Department of State, named three countries last Wednesday — Belize, Haiti and Samoa — which will no longer be receiving the H2 work visa for at least 2018.

On Thursday, the reasons that the three countries were banned from receiving the temporary work visas were published in The Federal Register, which is the daily record and archive of the U.S. federal government.

The Federal Register cited the Government of Belize’s poor performance in combating human trafficking as the reason that Belizean workers would not be able to access the work visa.

Interestingly, this action on the part of the US Government comes only one month after Belize voted in a UN resolution against a US motion making Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Belize is listed on the U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report as a “Tier 3’’ country. “Tier 3 means the country does not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” said The Federal Register.

On Friday, Foreign Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington commented on the US Government’s decision not to grant the work visas to Belizeans, who only last year had received 299 visas, according to the US Embassy in Belmopan.

Elrington was asked if it was mere coincidence that the US stripped Belize of the work visas at this time.

“No, actually, the Americans have indicated why. They have decided not to grant the visas, and the reason they are giving is that we have not complied with their expectation in terms of human trafficking. That is something that they had been warning us about for some time now.

“And they have formed the view, rightly or wrongly, that we are not doing sufficiently to satisfy them. And so, with a view to try to pressure us to be more proactive in dealing with this very serious issue, they’ve decided to limit…restrict the granting of visas, certain types of visas at this time,” he commented.

If Foreign Minister Elrington attempted to be cagey in his response to the US action against Belize, that was not the case with Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte.

In commenting on the US decision to strip Belize of the work visa, Belize’s Attorney General was unsparing in his criticism of the US. Peyrefitte characterized the US’s action as “cowardly and hypocritical,” and said that he was very disappointed by the decision.

Peyrefitte said that there are many other countries with similar conviction rates for human trafficking that are listed as Tier-1.

The media also asked Opposition Leader John Briceño about the US decision to deny Belizeans access to the work visa, which it will review after one year has passed.

The PUP Leader laid the blame squarely at the door of the United Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow.

“The reality is that the United States government has been calling out the government on the serious issues of human trafficking and they believe that there are high officials that are involved, both in human trafficking and drug trafficking, and that we are turning a blind eye, and until we take decisive steps, until we take decisive actions, they are going to continue to punish us,” he said.

Briceño went on to say, “And it’s unfortunate that it’s not the ministers that are going to suffer, because as Minister Castro says, he doesn’t want to go to the United States, so he is not going to apply for a visa. But that aside, there are people, hardworking Belizeans that go every year to work for 8-9 months in the US, and then they come back.

“There are several people in San Estevan that I know, every year they go to work, and now, because of the corruption and the incompetence of the Dean Barrow administration, they will be unable to continue to work in the United States,” Briceño said.

Amandala



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