A man who overstayed almost eight years was sentenced this week to four months’ imprisonment for overstaying plus a fine of $2,000 or a further four months for working without a permit.
Omar Donovan Reid, 41, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to overstaying from Feb. 28, 2011 to Jan. 14, 2019. He also admitted working without a permit during that time.
Crown counsel Scott Wainwright said Mr. Reid, a Jamaican national, married a Caymanian woman in August 2010. Five days after the marriage, his work permit expired, but he made no application for another permit or residence. He was invited to apply for employment and residence rights, but declined to do so. He admitted to knowingly overstaying and having knowledge of the immigration amnesty last year.
Mr. Reid and his wife were still married but were living separately. They had a child together and remained friends, with the defendant paying $150 a month toward the support of the child.
“He refused to disclose who he was working for and the nature of the work he was doing,” Mr. Wainwright concluded.
Defense attorney Dennis Brady told Magistrate Valdis Foldats that the defendant “had financial challenges and kept postponing what needed to be done until it got out of hand.” He said it was a case of not understanding that being married to a Caymanian was not sufficient for him to be able to stay here.
The magistrate said he could not accept this explanation because Mr. Reid had been told in 2011 that he needed to apply.
Mr. Brady replied, “The importance and urgency was lost on him … He did not seek professional services because of finances.”
The magistrate said Mr. Reid had no right to be in Cayman until he conformed to the provisions of the Immigration Law. If people follow the procedures in the law, there are no problems. If people put their head in the sand for years, then they face the consequences.
Mr. Brady accepted that there had to be a deterrent sentence. He suggested the “short, sharp shock” of a prison term followed by a requirement that Mr. Reid, within a week of release, make the application he should have made years ago. He emphasized the good relationship Mr. Reid had with his wife and the child’s attachment to him.
The magistrate said Mr. Brady had put forward the best possible case for the defendant. He commented to Mr. Reid, “I have a lot of sympathy for your attorney, but not much for you.”
He said the offenses were serious because they undermined immigration control, particularly in Cayman because of its size and economy. A prison term was required to send a message to other people who might be inclined to ignore immigration requirements, he added.
Mr. Reid’s overstaying was not a technical oversight, he pointed out.
“You were told you needed to regularize your position. You knew about the amnesty, but you ignored it,” he told the defendant. “Then working without a permit was taking work away from people who were entitled to work.”
His starting point for overstaying is one year, he noted. With discount for the guilty plea, the sentence would have been eight months, but the magistrate said he was going to give Mr. Reid a chance to pay back what he had stolen from people who had the right to work. Imposing four months for overstaying, he went on to hand down a fine of $2,000 for working without a permit. The defendant has two weeks to arrange payment or the alternative is four months’ imprisonment to be served consecutively.
“This is the lowest possible sentence I can impose,” he said. “You need to do right by your family and regularize your position.”