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‘I’m happy to be here’: Gloria Swasey shares immigration journey from Belize to America

Gloria Swasey pictured soon after arriving in the United States. Swasey first came in 1970. Photo courtesy of Gloria Swasey.

Gloria Swasey pictured soon after arriving in the United States. Swasey first came in 1970. Photo courtesy of Gloria Swasey.

Gloria Swasey pictured soon after arriving in the United States. Swasey first came in 1970. Photo courtesy of Gloria Swasey.

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In the interest of full disclosure, Gloria Swasey is the author’s grandmother. 

When Gloria Swasey travelled to the United States in 1969, she didn’t know that she would one day become an immigrant. When she did decide to move to America, the choice impacted not only her own life, but the lives of her family members.

The Oracle sat down with Swasey to learn more about her experiences as an immigrant.

Born on March 6, 1942, Swasey spent her childhood in Belize City. When she was 27, Swasey travelled to Detroit to visit her father’s family.

“[I realized] there’s a big difference between a small country and the United States,” she said.

On this trip, she decided that she wanted to find work in America and returned in 1970. She ultimately preferred Los Angeles as a home because she liked the weather better.

Swasey traveled back and forth between Belize and the United States using a 10-year visa. Despite the opportunities that were waiting for her in America, it was difficult for her to leave her four children behind and start a new life.

“I got homesick,” she said. “I would cry and cry — then I went back home.”

I fought for everybody, and everything went through.”

— Gloria Swasey

In the years that she was splitting her time between California and Belize, Swasey had three more children in Belize. She left them under the care of her older children while she stayed in California.

Swasey was not very open with her family about what she was doing in America or why she kept coming and going, her youngest daughter Stephanie Bellamy said.

Bellamy reflected on her childhood and said that her mother “wasn’t really there.”

“I didn’t really understand what was going on,” she said. “But [Swasey] always took care of us even though she wasn’t physically there. She was always taking care of us in a financial way.”

Bellamy and Swasey in 2010. Swasey helped Bellamy and ten others immigrate to Los Angeles in 1985. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bellamy.

Swasey knew that once she became a citizen, she was going to bring the rest of her family to the U.S. as well. Her family was able to immigrate eight years after she told them they would be moving to America. She wanted to ensure that she had established herself and was financially stable in America before bringing everyone else, but it took a while because she was making $1.65 per hour as a caretaker.

In 1983, she decided to bring her eldest daughter Anne Hinkson and her son Mervyn Williams to the states with the help of a woman who smuggled foreigners across the border for a living. Swasey was in California waiting to hear from them so she could pick them up — but the call she got was not the one she expected.

Once they reached Honduras, a country in Central America, the woman who was supposed to bring them to America took her clients’ money and passports and abandoned them. Swasey rushed to Honduras as fast as she could and paid the fee to get her children and three other women who had also been abandoned by the smuggler back to Belize.

“It was very scary,” Hinkson said. “We were all alone, and we didn’t know what was going to happen to us.”

According to Hinkson, her mother was trying to bring them to the states “the back way” or illegally. After the situation in Honduras, Swasey attempted to bring Hinkson and Williams to the U.S. via a bus from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego.

Hinkson recalls that they got stopped multiple times by the police in Mexico because they didn’t have the paperwork to be traveling to America. Their lives were threatened, causing Swasey to sacrifice valuable items such as a watch and her wedding ring in order to continue their journey across the border.

Hinkson and Swasey in 2017. Hinkson was one of the first people that Swasey helped to immigrate to the America. Photo by Stephanie Bellamy.

In April 1985, Swasey went back to Belize to help her seven children and four grandchildren immigrate to the states legally by herself. According to Hinkson, it cost $200 per person for a visa and $400 per person for plane tickets, totaling out to about $6,600.

“I fought for everybody, and everything went through,” Swasey said. “I did it all myself.”

Swasey expressed happiness that she immigrated when she did because she said she wouldn’t be able to afford it now.

“Things were a lot cheaper,” she said. “It’s so expensive now. I wouldn’t even be able to afford to bring one person [to the U.S.] now.”

Despite missing her home in Belize, Swasey said that her move to U.S. was for the best.

“I’m an immigrant,” she said. “And I’m happy to be here.”

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About the Writer
Kamryn Bellamy, Staff Writer

Kamryn Bellamy joined the Oracle staff in 2017. She was inspired to join the Oracle after she discovered a love for writing in her junior year. She is a member of Black Student Union and also plays on the Varsity Softball team. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family and reading.

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