THREE Venezuelan women who entered Trinidad and Tobago illegally and each had a child in TT have lost their challenge against their respective deportations.
In a 144-page ruling, Justice Ricky Rahim dismissed each woman’s constitutional and judicial review claims. He ruled that the Minister of National Security did not act unfairly when issuing the deportation orders, despite the women each having given birth to a child in TT. Rahim said the right to family life did not guarantee a right to choose the most suitable place to live.
He also noted the minister was responsible for safeguarding TT’s borders and territorial sovereignty and would have paid regard to the migrant crisis in Venezuela and the deleterious consequences for TT, easily accessible because of porous borders.
“He would have had to consider the increasing burden on the resources of the State as a consequence of the flight of Venezuelans by the thousands to TT and whether his actions may have been seen as an opening of a floodgate in which Venezuelan immigrants could obtain the right to stay and live in TT by giving birth to a child of a Trinidadian father while here.”
The judge also said the minister’s duty went only so far as taking steps to inform himself of all the facts presented to him to ensure his decision was reasonable when ordering the women’s deportation.
He also advised, “It must always be borne in mind when treating migrants that, as is the case with all human beings who find themselves in such an unenviable position, the main goal is to remain in TT. It means that the Immigration Division must be astute and careful to ensure that the information provided to them is accurate.”
The women’s attorneys had argued that the minister did not consider they gave birth in 2021. While admitting there was a lost opportunity to inform the minister of their babies – two of them did not present evidence of their child’s birth to immigration officials – he said they suffered no unfairness as a result.
“In this case, the minister would have had to consider that the claimants of course had the option of leaving the children in the custody and care of their fathers. Fathers who, on their own evidence, are all stellar providers not only for the Trinidadian minors but also for the entire families brought to Trinidad.”
He said travel to Venezuela to visit their mothers was possible, as was communicating using technology, which happens “every day in Trinidad when parents are divorced with custody of the children being awarded to the father.”
He added, “In the court’s view the best interest of the Trinidadian child with a Trinidadian father may have equally been that of the child staying with the father in Trinidad as opposed to being sent to Venezuela in what appear to be dire living circumstances set out by the very claimants in this case.”
On the rights of the minors, he said there was no evidence their fathers would be any less caring if they remained here, or their mothers could take them to Venezuela and have their fathers visit them from time to time. “The children in these cases are very young and resilient.”
He also said they would likely benefit from the unique exposure to two cultures to their benefit. Rahim also said from the evidence, the women were economic migrants and not refugees escaping persecution, nor were their children issued deportation orders.
“So whether the claimants take them to Venezuela will be a choice, presumably not only made by the claimants but with the involvement of the fathers in the decision-making process.”
He added, “Families exist in all types of permutations in the world of today. There is the linear family but there also exist families in which parents are separated with one parent residing within Trinidad and the other residing out of Trinidad.”
As for the women, he said they chose to leave families in Venezuela to come to Trinidad, entering illegally, and breaking the law until they were each detained. The women came on varying dates in 2019. They all had other children in Venezuela who also entered TT illegally before they gave birth to babies here.
Rahim said they were each put on conditional release but became pregnant in TT, leading the court to infer that the children were being used as an anchor against deportation and to create a type of residency not known to domestic law.
In dismissing their claims, he ordered each woman to pay the State’s costs. Rahim was also critical of the drafting of the women’s affidavits, which he said contained “large tracts of law.” He said the court would not tolerate “such an abuse of its process.”
The minister was represented by attorneys Gregory Delzin and Dianne Mano.
Gerald Ramdeen and Dayadai Harripaul represented the women.