Venezuelan illegal immigrant fined and deported
A 30-YEAR-old Venezuelan who landed in the Grenadines illegally via boat earlier this month, has said he came to St Vincent and the Grenadines(SVG) to make a better life for himself and his family.
Edmundo José Valerio Romero of Venezuela was arrested in Union Island on August 11. It is said that at around 12:20pm on this day, the police, having received certain information, made their way to a particular premises with a search warrant in hand. They met Romero there, and proceeded to read the warrant to him, and identify themselves as police officers. But the native Spanish speaker could not speak English.
Therefore, when he was questioned about his name and nationality, he replied in Spanish, trying to tell the police that he did not speak English.
A Rapid Response Unit(RRU) officer then began to communicate with Romero using a phone application. A search was consented to, and nothing illegal was found.
A Venezuelan passport was handed over to the authorities. Continuing to use the translation application, the police found out through questioning Romero that he had travelled on a vessel called ‘Maria Alexandra” to Carriacou to sell diesel. He told the police that he spent two days in Carriacou, before taking a speed boat to Union Island. There, he rented a room from a woman whom he said he hadn’t known.
At the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court(KMC) on August 10, the defendant admitted that he was guilty of, on August 8, in Union Island, entering the state of SVG other than a port of entry; disembarking without the consent of an immigration officer; and knowingly and wilfully allowing himself to be landed as a prohibited immigrant.
Enquiries were made by Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett as to testing for Covid-19 in the circumstances, and Senior immigration officer Veronica Harry, who was present in court, confirmed that Covid-19 testing had been cleared.
The Venezuelan was represented ‘pro bono’ or free of charge, by lawyer Jomo Thomas, because of the counsel’s solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Head of the Venezuela mission in SVG Francisco Pèrez Santana, was also seen in the vicinity of the court.
According to counsel, the Head of the Mission had spoken to Romero and indicated that they would be well prepared to issue a temporary passport in order for him to navigate his way back home, since Romero’s passport had expired.
Thomas informed that his client is a married father of one child, who came to SVG to make a better life for himself, because of the situation in his own country. His initial plan was to go to Carriacou to sell fish. He is said to be a law-abiding citizen in Venezuela, without any previous criminal convictions. The counsel submitted that Romero had no intention to engage in any kind of criminal activity.
It was also mentioned that the lawyer was told by his client that when the police came where he was staying in Union Island, they apparently “roughed” him up and punched him in the face. Romero had himself also told the magistrate this, explaining that the alleged violence had occurred after he first replied to their questions in Spanish.
Everything that was being said in the courtroom had to be translated as spoken, and when his lawyer’s words were translated, the defendant demonstrated a motion which caused the magistrate to comment that he(the defendant) seemed to be showing how he was allegedly boxed.
Also in mitigation, Thomas reminded the court of the difficult situation in Venezuela which has resulted in thousands leaving. He said he hoped the court would be moved by this human story and order that he be deported to be with his wife and child.
The magistrate said that there was no doubt that Romero would be deported, but observed that the defendant seemed to have the means to pay a fine, noting that he had rented a room.
Burnett further stated that he generally imposes a small fine for such matters. The magistrate decided on a fine of $300 for each of the three charges; a total of $900. Default on payment will result in a period of one month in prison each, to run concurrently.
He said that the Venezuelan is welcome back anytime but he has to follow the laws of the country.
After the sentence was translated, the defendant gave thanks, and said he just wanted the betterment of his child and grandparents who are sick.