Friday, January 10, 2014

Feature: AG's move to stop A2 visas ends a system of abuse

AG: Anand Ramlogan: "There is no need to apply for an A-2 visa (or any other kind of visa) to facilitate the employment of locally recruited staff in the host nation."
When Attorney General Anand Ramlogan determined that expired A-2 visas for locally-recruited staff (LRS) attached to the New York-based Consul General’s office will not be renewed he was correcting an anomaly that had existed for years under previous PNM administrations.

The A-2 visa is a diplomatic, non-immigrant document that allows non-diplomatic foreign accredited officials to enter the US and engage in official activities of their government. The holder of such a visa has immunity from prosecution and is guaranteed unrestricted travel to and from the U.S., and also within the country.

For years, the consulate has been using this diplomatic method to hire people under the heading of LRS, one of the two categories of workers employed. The other is home bound staff (HBS) who are not resident in the U.S. but sent there on behalf of the government of T&T. People recruited in the LRS category are supposed to be already legally residing in the US with a green card or people with American citizenship.

But that was not happening. According to the practice of hiring that the Manning administration used, some persons with no legal status in the U.S. were hired, sometimes on instructions from cabinet with the main qualification being "the blessings of the hierarchy at Balisier House”.

In 2005 then Foreign Minister Knowlson Gift instructed the Consul General to appoint Terrence Gregory Lewis to a post at the consulate. The minister's letter dated August 3, 2005 and sent on official government letterhead stated in part: "Mr Lewis’ recommendation for employment at the Consulate General comes with the blessing of the hierarchy at Balisier House."

Read the story:

When the present Consul General, Nan Ramgoolam, discovered what was happening she realised that it was not only a breach of the rules but also an abuse of the hospitality of the host nation. So she put a stop to the practice, which in turn affected a number of workers who ended up in New York with no legal residency status.

That led to calls of discrimination and victimisation although in her report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ramgoolam made it clear that rules had been breached with respect to the A2 visas and she would not continue along that path.


The matter was referred to the AG's office for a legal opinion. Last week, AG Ramlogan determined that there had in fact been an abuse of the rules with respect to the A2 visas. And he instructed Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran to immediately end the practice.

According to a report in the Sunday Guardian, Ramlogan said using the consulate’s office to obtain work visas for people living illegally in the United States was “a misuse and abuse of diplomatic protocol.”

The Guardian quoted from Ramlogan's letter: “Foreign missions should only hire persons who are lawfully resident and entitled to work in the host nation. Missions should therefore desist from hiring persons who are not lawfully entitled to reside and work in the host nation in accordance with the relevant immigration laws."

“There is no need to apply for an A-2 visa (or any other kind of visa) to facilitate the employment of locally recruited staff in the host nation. Such persons would already be lawfully resident and entitled to work in the United States of America,” the Guardian quoted Ramlogan as stating.

“If, on the other hand, the employee is not legally resident and entitled to work in the USA, the employment of such a person using the A-2 visa is improper and unethical. It is a backdoor method of regularizing their immigration status in circumstances where they are otherwise not entitled to legally live and work in the USA,” he added.
CG Nan Ramgoolam

Ramgoolam told the Guardian about the nature of the problem that has now been foxed with the AG's ruling and instruction to the minister. "What happened is that you had people coming to the US with a visitor’s visa and they were being hired even though they were not legally allowed to work in the US."

She added, “Some were working at the Mission without proper documentation and I was expected to carry on that custom,” she said. "I am vindicated now that the Attorney General has made this determination," she added.

"You cannot breach the laws of another country and once one of these visas come to an end, I am not renewing them,” she said.

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai