PUP does not want Minister Martinez to testify Print E-mail
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Thursday, 29 June 2017 00:00

The latest Senate Hearing on Immigration happened on Wednesday, June 28, where Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco was called back to finish up her testimony. Her name is called out - probably - the most of all the public officers who were working at the Department during the period that is under the Audit review.

So, the Senate Select Committee called her back to answer a few more questions, but they also summoned UDP Minister Anthony “Boots” Martinez. He was supposed to give testimony, but for some unexplained reason, the Committee informed him that their schedule had changed. He was dismissed and told that he will be summoned to return at a later date. Of course, the very busy Minister of Government and Area Representative was unhappy that he cancelled all important work he had scheduled, just so that he could comply with the Senate’s summons.

So, Pacheco took the stand for a second time, and the Senators walked her through a majority of the cases in which the Auditor General questions her motive, and the correctness of her actions as an Immigration officer. One topic they did go back to for a second time, was the issue of the process for  verifying that documents submitted in applications for visas, nationalities and passports were not fraudulent. On her first day, she told them that whenever applications for visas and nationalities were passed to her, she did not do any kind of background check on the personal documents attached to the application. She did not ensure that fake documents such as stolen birth certificates, duplicated stamps and immigration permits not lawfully issued, and fake passports were not part of these files she was verifying as authentic.

The Audit report exposes a number of such types of files, some of which slipped pass Ady Pacheco herself, and so, the Senate questioned her on that. She asserted strongly that her lax approach to the verification of documents was part of the policy at the department before it came under heavy scrutiny.

Even though the Senators were disbelieving of her description of the department’s treatment of due diligence, she kept insisting. And under lengthy and forceful cross examinations, Pacheco commented, “There is no set person, or section that dealt with only verification. There was no verification done at the time… We went by whatever was in the file, and at face value. There was no set procedure that said that we have to verify extension stamp, residency stamp, work permit stamp, or even arrival stamp…”

That, of course, is rather hard to digest since it meant that the country’s entire immigration procedures were vulnerable to abuse. Possible implications are that there is exposure of legitimate holders to Belizean passports and nationalities. Immigration officers of all the countries they visit have legitimate reason to question the authenticity of these documents, since human trafficking victims, and maybe even criminals and terrorists are in possession of Belizean documents.

No matter how the Senators challenged her that she was the negligent officer who allowed fraud to get past the checks and balances that she should have been vigilant in following, Pacheco insisted that this was once the culture at the department.