Editorial: Since when is upholding the law a bad thing?

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Last week it was brought to the attention of The San Pedro Sun that a young man who was a visitor to the island had overstayed his tourist visa by more than eight weeks. Apparently the individual went to the San Pedro Immigration office and declared his oversight, claiming that he did not know the immigration laws of Belize and did not realize he needed to renew his visa after the 30-day allotted time. Most of us have heard the old expression “ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law,” and thus Immigration officers promptly detained the person under the said violation. In accordance of due process a judge issued a fine for the violation and after the fine was paid the individual was released. This should be the end of the story…but unfortunately it is just the beginning.

Unbelievably there are some people on the island who believe this person was treated unjustly, claiming that the San Pedro Immigration officers have better things to do like rounding up undesirables on the island who are most likely here illegally rather than enforcing immigration laws that are mandated by the country of Belize. And although yes we do have illegal immigrants residing on the island, and yes you do have to give the individual credit for turning himself in, the REAL news story here has been overlooked…the REAL story is that these Immigration officers refused to be persuaded to ignore the violation and acted in accordance of the law, despite being coerced into doing otherwise.

It is ridiculous how double-sided some choose to argue the issue of law implementation; on one hand demanding better law enforcement and complaining of corrupt officers while on the other hand criticizing them for doing the job they swore to uphold. Is it all about, “enforce the law but only when it is convenient for me or when I think it’s fair”?

Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, especially when you are travelling to a foreign country and you neglect to educate yourself on the immigration laws when planning an extended stay. If courts of law accepted the idea that ignorance was an excuse for breaking the law, then any criminal could just claim that they were ignorant of the law and it would become impossible to convict anybody of any crime. Once that starts there is no end to the slippery slope of deciding justice.

It confounds me as to why some of the good, law abiding citizens of San Pedro are outraged when an Immigration officer is doing his job? Are we to ask these officers to forge paperwork to reflect a timely payment? How else could they go about bending the law? Why would someone demand lenience when a law has clearly been broken?

Forget all the other issues, the NEWS story here is that we have Immigration officers in San Pedro who take their jobs seriously and refuse to be intimidated into bending the rules. That is good news for us and it is good news for all of those who are entrusted to uphold the law. Do your job, ignore the bribes and bullies and keep up the good work, you are doing your part in making our community a better place and your honesty and integrity is a refreshing and welcome change.

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