A man who pleaded guilty to overstaying 35 days was fined $205, the cost of a one-way ticket to his home country.
This sort of offense was difficult to pass sentence on, Magistrate Valdis Foldats said, because overstaying is “an attack” on Cayman’s border control, but putting someone in prison is a burden on the country.
He was commenting on the case of Shawn Sheldon Campbell, 29, who appeared in Summary Court on Monday.
The defendant pleaded guilty to unlawfully remaining in Cayman from Jan. 11 to Feb. 15, 2019.
Crown counsel Emma Hutchinson said Mr. Campbell was arrested on Feb. 15 after police visited a George Town bar to investigate a report of illegal gambling. They found no evidence of such activity, but officers requested individuals present their passports or some form of identification.
Mr. Campbell admitted to officers that he had overstayed, but said someone was going to apply for a work permit for him. His previous work permit, with a janitorial service, had expired on Nov. 25, 2018, and he was given time to leave.
He said he had saved $600, which he was living on, and his landlord was allowing him to stay on the promise that he would pay when he started working.
Defense attorney John Furniss added that there was a young woman who was assisting Mr. Campbell as best she could.
Mr. Campbell has been in custody since his arrest.
The magistrate said that if the defendant had overstayed longer, there was the likely penalty of jail, “because we have to send a message.” In the case of a short-term overstayer, there must be meaningful punishment; otherwise, people would be tempted to just take a chance. Immigration laws are very important in this country, he emphasized. “I have to send a message to other people thinking of doing the same thing.”
He noted that government would bear the cost of sending the man back to his country of origin and wondered how much that would be. Mr. Furniss volunteered that he had recently been involved in a matter that dealt with the cost of a one-way ticket to Jamaica and he thought it was $205.
The magistrate thought that Mr. Campbell should be able to scrape up that amount between his girlfriend and his savings. He therefore imposed a fine of $205 or, in the alternative, serve 20 days.
“We can’t afford to let people off with no punishment,” he stated.