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Jamaican national deemed prohibited immigrant released on bail pending hearing

Posted: Tuesday, December 12, 2023. 8:37 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The case of Carlos Anthony Setoni Higgins of Mandeville, Manchester, Jamaica, illustrates the real-world issues faced by the Immigration Department in preventing Belize from being used as a staging ground for migration to the United States, even as immigrants claim they are only visiting the Jewel like anyone else.

Carlos Higgins has been in Belize since November 24, but has seen far less of it than he would like. He was detained at the Philip Goldson International Airport after authorities suspected he was misleading them about his intentions while in the country.

Now, he has been charged with willfully supplying false information to the Immigration Officer upon demand. He appeared with attorney Norman Rodriguez on Monday and pleaded not guilty. The Immigration Department alleges that Higgins failed to truthfully answer questions put to him by them, as well as allegedly falsifying information on his disembarkation card. Prosecutor Ismael Pulido applied for the court to deny bail to Higgins considering he is a flight risk.

But attorney Rodriguez argued that the charges were maliciously filed after an unprecedented nine days in detention before he, Rodriguez, took custody of him following a failed habeas corpus application in the High Court last week.

Magistrate Mannan Dennison allowed that there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed at this point and so offered bail of $5,000 and two sureties of $2,500 with the following conditions: Higgins is to surrender his travel documents and not to attempt to apply for new ones without the court’s permission and must report to the Immigration office in Belize City on each Friday of the week between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to check in.

Due to the court’s busy schedule, Higgins will be spending the Christmas and New Year period in the Jewel – up to his next court date on February 12.

Higgins flew to Belize on Copa Airlines Flight 281 on November 24 and spoke to Assistant Immigration Officer Luis Romero, the shift supervisor, on arrival at the PGIA around 4:30 that afternoon.

Higgins presented documentation including his Jamaican passport and declaration of intent to stay in Belize for a week and other pertinent information. But his flight itinerary showed he would be going back home via Panama to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he says he currently resides, but allegedly could not show proof of doing so.

But attorney Rodriguez told our court reporter that the Department should not quickly jump to conclusions about his client: “The first thing that is that the prosecutor said that the Immigration Director directed him to object to bail. That is crap, right? And it shows that there is some sort of malice or something else. Tell them to answer that for you. But I suggest at this point it is malicious…we are not going to let this go. We’re going to hold on to it. We’re doing this for all the other Caribbean people who come into Belize and are treated this way. I don’t care what the issue is that they may have with him. At this point, we hate to see that we treat our own brothers and sisters from the other Caribbean countries like this. [There] should be no malice in doing a professional job.”

 

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