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Dec 9, 2014

Honduran national still in country despite removal order

Marvin Lara Melara

A Honduran national, Marvin Leonel Lara Melara, was before the Supreme Court for illegal entry today.  His case is significant because the ruling is the first ever interpretation of the removal order under section thirty of the Immigration Act, under which the offender must be sent home within seven days of the issuance of a removal order. Lara Melara had initially pleaded guilty to illegal entry in the San Ignacio Magistrate Court before Magistrate Nardia Morgan but after paying a fine for entering the country illegally, he remained a prisoner at the Belize Central Prison because the Immigration Department has failed to send him home. His attorney, Kevin Arthurs, made an application of habeas corpus and showed to the court that on November seventeenth, the Honduran national, pleaded guilty to illegal entry and was fined one thousand dollars which he paid. Lara Melara was told that he would be sent back to Honduras within days, but that did not happen even though his family had bought airline tickets. At the case today, the immigration department did not show up.  Arthurs explained what transpired.

 

Kevin Arthurs, Attorney

Kevin Arthurs

“This is the first court case to decide the issue of removal, which I am sure is of much importance to not only the prisoner who was successful in the habeas corpus application today, but also for the Immigration Department. The court gave some guidance in terms of the interpretation of section thirty of the Immigration Act. The facts in relation to Mister Melara’s case is that he entered the country and was charged for illegal entry on November 17th; he then pled guilty and paid his fine and he was ordered to be removed from the jurisdiction. For some reason, which was not clear because despite the prompting and patience of the judge to have authorities from the Immigration Department appear to answer the habeas corpus application, they chose not to attend the hearing today which is sad because there were significant issues of law which were declared by the judge today. Of importance and of guidance to the immigration procedure in Belize—and we must be thankful to the judge for her direction in these matters—is that after someone has served their sentence or have paid their fine in respect of immigration offenses and there is a removal order granted in relation to section thirty; that at a minimum or at a maximum, there is seven days and after that time the person ought to be removed either by defraying the cost of their return or through the public funds funding their return to their home. And so this is a very important decision. The issue of habeas corpus is not one that comes up very often and the court in this case moved expeditiously and urgently as the constitution required to have this matter dealt with. And so Mister Melara should be returning back to his family tomorrow.”

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