Belizeans will no longer be able to apply for H-2A and H-2B US visas. This is because the United States Government has banned Belizeans along with Haitians and Samoans from applying for the temporary work visas. The decision was announced by the Department of Homeland Security and the official notice was issued to the Belizean Government today. Those visas allow US businesses to bring in workers from other countries. According to an online report, the H-2A visa is for agriculture and the H-2B is for non-agricultural seasonal work in places such as resorts. In Belize’s case, the report cites concerns over human trafficking. A statement from the US Embassy here explained quote, “, “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.” End of quote. Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte described the move as ‘cowardly’ and ‘hypocritical’.
MICHAEL PEYREFITTE, ATTORNEY GENERAL
“I was only just now made aware of the report. I noticed that they only mentioned that we had human trafficking issues. I guess it stems from the fact that we were, because of last year somehow put on tier three when it comes to human trafficking which is not a good place to be in terms of the ranking of Human Trafficking. So, 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 are on tier 1 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.”
In August 2017, Peyrefitte, accompanied by Minister of Human Development Anthony Martinez, met with Attorney General for the US Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein in Washington DC during a Human Trafficking Seminar. The gentlemen discussed the partnership between both countries to halt human trafficking. According to the Attorney General, Belize’s Tier 3 ranking in the U.S Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report was based on studies conducted in 2016.
MICHAEL PEYREFITTE, ATTORNEY GENERAL
“There will be another ranking assessment in the coming month or two 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 activities since then or what we were trying to do up until this point. We have done several things that were required and suggested by the consultant especially assigned to us, we have assigned a police unit to the Human Trafficking, a special Supreme Court Judge, a Special Magistrate, Members in the Attorney General’s Ministry and a specialized prosecutor so many of the things that were required for the powers that be to be indicated to that we are complying with Human Trafficking efforts have been done so it would 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 have been working together with the Human Development Ministry to see what will be the result in all of that. Indeed it would be very disappointing if given all the efforts we are making and given all the commitments we’ve made that we remain at tier 3 at the next ranking session.”
The ban is for one year. The US Embassy says that the Department of Homeland Security ‘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 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan processed 299 H-2 visas.