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Feb 16, 2017

Immigration Officers Never Learned Their Lessons

Teresita Castellanos

Teresita Castellanos is a seasoned public officer. She provided scandalous details on Wednesday at the Senate hearings about the rot at the Immigration Department. She says she has been a public officer for thirty years and until she went to the Department of Immigration in 2011, she had said she only heard about the goings-on inside the Department, but seeing it first-hand forever soured her view.  And with the secrecy surrounding the Department, she says she could not come forward to talk about it, even to the media.  Committee Chairman Aldo Salazar then asked her opinion about how it can be fixed and that’s when she revealed that the work could have started already but there was no will from up top – Castellanos even said she was transferred while the work was ongoing.  She also discussed how even after the eight visa foils were discovered missing from the Western Border Station in late 2012, security was still lax.

 

 

Teresita Castellanos, Former Administrative Officer, Immigration Department

“The restructuring that was mentioned by the C.E.O. last week – it could have already been implemented; I don’t know what is the keep back, but yes, the concept was good. I know that I left the Department – I was thrown out of the Department; because we normally are transferrable but the same C.E.O. who sat here had me moved from the Department in 2014 – it was not a regular transfer, for whatever personal reason she had; I was part  as a matter of fact of the restructuring…”

 

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“We just want to …if you are going to cast blame on somebody, be clear about who it was. Who was it, who are you referring to when you say the same C.E.O.?”

 

Teresita Castellanos

“C.E.O. Candelaria Saldivar-Morter.”

 

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“You are saying the procedure that was in place was not being carried out; but you as Finance Officer did not know about it until it happened – until the visas were missing, that’s when you became aware there was a flaw, so to speak.”

 

Teresita Castellanos

“Yes.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“And that the officers weren’t carrying out their responsibilities and obligations.”

 

Teresita Castellanos

“Yes. And I pointed out in April, after this occurred and I went to do a surprise check – and I have it in my reports that they are copying – even after this was discovered of the missing visas and I went to the stations, and I went into the OIC’s office to do my checks; the cabinet was wide open; I saw during the while I was there I saw two, three officers walking in and taking things from that same cabinet and walking out with it, and I brought it to the attention of the OIC and I put it in the report. They had no business to – more than one person to be – even if they were issue it to somebody outside coming to Belize, the OIC should have had that in his possession and hand it over, if it was one or two, hand it over to the officer; they had no business going inside the OIC’s room. The cabinet was wide open and they just haul out – whether it was a visa, a permit, a receipt book – whatever it was, they just came in and out and I brought to the attention of the OIC.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Who was the OIC that you were referring to?”

 

Teresita Castellanos

“At the time, 2013, it was still Mister Edgar Cano, the same person who was there when the visas went missing. It was still happening.”

 

According to Castellanos, her transfer was fought over by no less than Minister Godwin Hulse but she was ultimately transferred out. Another measure implemented was the simple placement of buzzers at the office to halt the inappropriate traffic in and out of the department. Castellanos is set to return next week Wednesday before the Committee to respond to questions from the members about documentation she submitted on measures they say they wanted to implement.

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