Two Peruvian nationals were sentenced last week after pleading guilty to immigration offences.
Luis Miguel Pumachaico Duenes, 19, and Julio Alejandro Juarez, 24, appeared in Summary Court several times before their matters were disposed of.
On those occasions, a magistrate, a translator and a Crown Counsel referred to one or the other of the defendants as ‘she’, probably making assumptions based on appearance and demeanour. An Immigration officer advised that the defendants were men.
Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale asked where they were being held. The officer said they were in a segregated section of the police station.
Last week, Duenes pleaded guilty to making a false statement on his Immigration landing card about his address in Cayman, on 24 March; wilful obstruction and possession of four Schengen visas that were not genuine, on 28 March.
Juarez pleaded guilty to making a false statement on his landing card and being in possession of a fraudulent reservation voucher on 28 March.
After hearing the background to the charges, Magistrate Ramsay-Hale asked what it took this case out of the norm.
Crown Counsel Gail Johnson said the Immigration Department had noticed an influx of Peruvian nationals from the week before.
The magistrate asked if there was concern that Cayman was being used as an entry point for Peruvians to the UK. Ms Johnson said yes.
Asked if the defendants were part of a ring, she said yes.
According to facts presented, officials arrested Duenes at the airport on 28 March, having commenced their investigation regarding Peruvian nationals. The arrest was for the false information four days earlier – giving his address as Indies Suites and knowing that to be false.
Duenes had been attempting to depart for the UK. Questioned about visas, he indicated he had not received anything. He was taken to a courier service where he was identified as the person who had collected visas. He was then taken to another courier service where he had attempted to send two visas back to Peru.
He was interviewed and indicated that there was contact with a guy in Peru named Luis who had arranged the travel and instructions to stay with a named woman in Cayman. He said he had been contacted to return two of the visas to Luis; they were for other persons.
Juarez was arrested at the airport on his arrival. His completed entry form indicated he was staying at a named resort and he presented a reservation voucher for it.
Officers checked and found there was no reservation for Juarez at the resort and information on the voucher was false. Juarez gave officials the same information that Duenes had given – that ‘Luis’ was the contact for Cayman and for the visa to the UK or Europe.
Through the interpreter, the magistrate invited the defendants to tell her what would cause them to be involved in this immigration racket.
Duenes said he had done this because his family was not in a good financial position and his mother needed an operation urgently. He had been working in a beauty salon and his income was about one dollar for each job. It would have been impossible for him to obtain the money.
This defendant said he knew he had done wrong and asked that he be able to return home because his mother was concerned.
Juarez said he too knew that what he had done was wrong. But he did it ‘because in our country we are in a difficult economic situation.’
The magistrate said she did not want to offend, but it seemed to her that this defendant had had enough surgery to have paid for the other defendant’s mother’s surgery. She wondered what kind of hardship he could plead when he had managed to reconstruct himself.
She asked what kind of work he did and was told, ‘Barber or beauty salon is the only work we can do.’
Questioned further about his motive, Juarez said he was seeking financial improvement and also to be more accepted in society and not on the margin.
The magistrate observed that there are countries more sophisticated than Cayman that still make life difficult for persons like them. ‘You have made a difficult choice; you must not believe you will find immediate acceptance anywhere. And now you have made it more difficult because you have broken the law.’
She indicated that this was a difficult matter for her. She was of the firm belief that, because they were both part of a ring to facilitate illegal immigration, they both merited custodial sentences. Cayman must guard against being used as an entry port to any of its neighbours. ‘We owe them that duty as they owe it to us,’ shepointed out.
Against that she had to weigh the very real danger to the defendants if they were to be incarcerated at Northward Prison.
Sentencing was adjourned until later in the day. When Duenes and Juarez were called back, the magistrate said she had looked at other cases involving forged visas.
The aggravating feature in this case was that it appeared these defendants were involved in a larger, more sophisticated scheme for illegal immigration.
Having reviewed authorities, she was satisfied that the sentence could fall within six months and one year, even on a guilty plea.
However, the personal circumstances of the defendants were rather unusual. ‘They are not quite the men they were born to be.’
The magistrate said she was concerned how they would serve a sentence at Northward. Without a doubt, special arrangements would have to be made to secure their safety and this would be necessary at a cost to these islands.
Therefore the sentence was 30 days on each charge, concurrent, so that the defendants might be returned to their country of origin.
The magistrate said she was not insensitive to the plea that they had sought to leave Peru and journey to England to find a country that would be more tolerant and allow them to achieve greater personal and financial success.
But she could not take the personal needs of offenders into account. ‘The choices you made are your choices and you’re going to have to deal with them without breaking laws in the future,’ she told the defendants.
What are Schengen visas?
Schengen visas are named for a small town in Luxembourg where seven European countries signed a treaty in 1985 to end internal border checkpoints and controls.
With a Schengen visa, travellers may enter one country and travel freely throughout the Schengen zone, which now includes 15 countries, all in Europe.