Court halts deportation of Jamaican mother

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Ricky Rahim –

A HIGH COURT judge has set aside a deportation order for a Jamaican woman who came to Trinidad and Tobago in 2010.

The Immigration Division has also been prohibited from removing the woman from TT.

Justice Ricky Rahim made the orders on May 29. He ruled the State breached the woman’s right to protection of the law by failing to have her witness interviewed by the special inquiry or the Immigration Advisory Committee (IAC) after she was denied re-entry on April 16, 2019.

He also ruled the woman’s rights were breached by the application of a higher standard of consideration by immigration officials on whether she fell within a category of people under section 8(1)(h) of the Immigration Act deemed to be a prohibited class likely to become a charge on public funds.

In setting aside the deportation order, Rahim also held that the dismissal of the woman’s appeal to the Minister of National Security was null, void and of no effect.

The constitutional claims of her two children, who were born in TT, have been stayed and compensation is to be assessed by a Master of the High Court. The State was also ordered to pay 50 per cent of the woman’s legal costs.

In her lawsuit, the woman said after she entered TT, she married a Trinidadian in 2012 but was subjected to “tremendous abuse” for a year. Her husband left the marital home and never returned. She said she had intended to apply for permanent residence but only did so in 2017. Her first child was born in 2013 and her second in 2019, in a second relationship. She left Trinidad in 2018, on the advice of her attorneys and tried returning one month later when she was stopped at the Piarco International Airport.

Her lawsuit said she was told at the special inquiry, the rejection order was issued because her husband was unable to produce himself and it was unclear if there was a custody battle for their child. It was also her evidence that her sister and her current partner were present to support her as witnesses but were not called to testify at the inquiry.

In his ruling, Rahim was critical of the immigration officials’ failure to make proper enquiries in such cases.

“The court thinks it fit to add that it is perhaps wise that immigration officers charged with making the determination on issues such as the ones presented in this case take the opportunity to make the relevant enquires especially in the case where persons are available who may potentially assuage their justified concerns.”

He said making a telephone call or interviewing the woman’s witnesses “may have gone a long way in assisting in the determination of the issue in a fair manner.”

“The standard of satisfaction required on the part of the officer is a matter to which attention must be paid.

“Nothing in life is guaranteed and indeed the law does not set such an impossible standard but speaks in terms of likelihood.

“But to assess likelihood one must avail oneself of all of the relevant information. Only then can the full extent of the law be satisfied.”

He also said the minister, as advised by the IAC – a committee established by Cabinet in 2017 to advise on appeals made from deportation orders – operated outside of its jurisdiction by making a fundamental error of law by applying a higher threshold or standard than that set out in the Immigration Act.

The woman was represented by a team of attorneys led by Farai Hove Masaisai and Antonya Pierre. The State was represented by Sasha Sukram and Vincent Jardine.