The trial of an Immigration and Border Protection Services employee (see related story) once again highlights the degree of irregularities that have occurred in the department over the years. Easily a dozen persons at various levels of the law enforcement agency have been the subjects of criminal investigations since country status was achieved per 10-10-10.
In this case the officer claimed he was “spontaneously” offered US $3,000 by an undocumented Haitian man he picked up during a control at a money transfer service in Philipsburg, an obvious target as many immigrants send funds home. However, the victim told a different story and the defendant was convicted by the Court of First Instance for soliciting a bribe.
The official placed on non-active duty filed an appeal, but that backfired because his original six-month prison term was doubled at the request of the Solicitor-General. He also was banned from serving in the Police Force or Immigration for five years once the sentence becomes irrevocable, and dismissal automatically follows.
As the three-judge panel stated, these kinds of transgressions shed a bad light on the entire organisation and St. Maarten authorities in general, eroding public confidence both locally and abroad. It’s not for nothing that the Dutch government insisted on, among other things, joint border control during talks about recovery assistance from the Netherlands following the onslaught of Hurricane Irma.
To be fair, people should keep in mind that this function is particularly susceptible to buy-off attempts, because most illegal residents are desperate to stay and work to help maintain their families elsewhere. That means the job of Immigration officer requires strength of character and irreproachable conduct.
The often-used only excuse of having debts can never be a justification to abuse one’s position and basically steal, especially for someone trained and entrusted by society to uphold the rule of law.
The good news is that as bad apples are removed, the rest will only become more motivated to always do the right thing.