BY ROGAN SMITH
Haitian Chargé d’ Affaires Dorval Darlier is completely out of order. There’s no other way to put it.
Earlier this week, the outspoken diplomat said he didn’t believe Haitians convicted of “minor immigration offences” should be sent to prison. Instead, he told Attorney General, Carl Bethel that they should be taken to the Carmichael Road Detention Center and later repatriated to Haiti.
“I think that the first point of view is that some people are in Fox Hill (prison) for minor things like the immigration matter. I know that The Bahamas is a country of laws, but sometimes you have to see it like the humanitarian way because there isn’t a major crime,” he said.
He went a step further, saying it’s harsh to send Haitians to prison for petty offenses.
Darlier cannot be serious. I would hardly refer to migrants illegally entering someone’s country as “minor” or “petty”. If a stranger entered Darlier’s home without permission would he view it as minor or petty? Surely not, and referring to those acts as such trivializes the crime.
Someone broke the law, thus denying our officials the right to inspect them and determine if they should be here. There are consequences for improper entry and jail time happens to be one of them. It’s really not that difficult to comprehend.
Rather than calling on the government to instruct the court on how it should operate – because that is essentially what he is doing – perhaps Darlier and other officials at the Haitian Embassy, should highlight these very real consequences to the Haitian nationals who may be tempted to enter The Bahamas illegally.
That would be more appropriate rather than suggesting how a country conducts its affairs and deals with lawbreakers.
Furthermore, if individuals do not want to receive jail time, they should not break the law.
Former Court of Appeal President, Dame Joan Sawyer recently told The Nassau Guardian that Darlier was “completely out of line” for criticizing the court’s decision to send Haitians convicted of “minor immigration offenses” to jail.
“I think he was completely out of line to try and suggest to The Bahamas’ court what they should and should not do. We don’t accept that from the attorney general or anybody else,” she said.
“There is a little thing called tactfulness. You don’t, in another person’s country, try and tell their judiciary how to behave.”
Dame Joan noted that before the detention center was established, nationals who violated the Immigration Act were sent to prison without first going to trial.
She said a breach of the law is a breach of the law and there is “no such thing as a little breach.”
I couldn’t agree more. Darlier was out of line, even if his intentions were good.
I think the chargé d’ affaires should have given real consideration to that statement before he made it. The Bahamas has been saddled with an influx of Haitian nationals for decades and the situation does not seem to be abating.
We are now approaching the holiday months where there is typically an influx of Haitian migrants attempting to make landfall in The Bahamas. They will do so even though they are fully aware of the consequences for such actions.
Magistrates have long bemoaned the fact that court fines alone do not deter persons from entering The Bahamas illegally. So, something had to be done.
Earlier this year when Brent Symonette was the minister of immigration, he noted that individuals who illegally enter the country would be immediately charged before the court and repatriated, meaning that they would now have a criminal record and not be allowed to get a work permit if they later decided to apply to work in The Bahamas.
“Regrettably for some of the persons . . . we are now taking them to court when they are found. Whereas before, we used to deport them. This now means that all of those Haitian persons and others who get deported, they will now have a criminal record,” Symonette said at the time.
Leaders around the world have been doing all in their power to stave off migrants seeking to enter their countries illegally.
Let’s look at Canada, for example. Canada is seen as one of the most liberal and welcoming countries in the world when it comes to immigration.
But, after the Trump administration announced its crackdown on immigration, Canada started seeing an increase in immigrants illegally entering the country.
Last year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested 5,500 people trying to enter Canada from the US. According to USA Today, the majority of those individuals were Haitian immigrants.
To counter this, Canadian officials visited South Florida with the sole purpose of highlighting the limitations of its immigration system – a move they felt would deter those persons seeking to enter the country illegally.
Over the summer, the Trump administration sought to fast-track the deportation process in order to bypasses immigration judges. The rule would have applied to immigrants who had been in the US for fewer than two years. But, a federal judge blocked the move.
Many pundits believe the Brexit vote was largely driven by anti-immigration sentiments.