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Feb 8, 2017

Ex-Immigration C.E.O. Warns of ‘Unusual’ Events at Department

Candelaria Saldivar-Morter

The Senate Special Select Committee met with three witnesses today at its public hearings in Belmopan. These were senior Immigration Officer Edgar Cano; Finance Officer Teresita Castellanos, and the now-retired, former C.E.O. in the Ministry of Immigration, Candelaria Saldivar-Morter. The sister of Belmopan area representative and Minister John Saldivar was sent on paid leave for almost a year after leaving the Ministry due to internal issues and ultimately chose to retire. She was asked to explain as supervisor of the Department what happened to cause such a serious breakdown in the Department’s machinery, allowing thousands of persons to illegally acquire visas, passports and Belizean nationality, often for nothing at all. There has been a round of back-and-forth between the most senior staff of the Immigration Department who worked during the period 2011 to 2013, as covered in the Auditor General’s Report as to ultimate responsibility for the shambles within which the Department operated. Ruth Meighan, who served as Director of Immigration at the time, seemed when she testified a few weeks ago to blame her junior officers for not adequately satisfying requirements. But several of them, including then-Head of Nationality Section Gordon Wade, pointed the finger right back at her and Deputy Maria Marin. We will have the C.E.O.’s reaction to that later on, but first, what happened to all those missing files that the auditors tirelessly begged for to conduct their investigation? Saldivar-Morter said they were tending to them in house and that they were available for the auditors’ perusal.


Candelaria Saldivar-Morter, Former C.E.O., Ministry of Immigration

“The Auditor General wrote to the Ministry at one point, requesting nationality files. Now the Ministry had put together a team, because we had some issues with files being missing and we couldn’t find files and so on; so we put together a team from the Ministry to do an inventory of files within the Nationality Section; but that was done at the Immigration Department. So when the Auditor General wrote to me, asking for files from the Ministry; I responded and told her, we did not remove any files from the Department’s building; all the inventory was done within the confines of the Department. She insisted that Miss [Maria] Marin was saying the files were with us; but we did not do that inventory outside of the building; it was done right within the building. And so that was another correspondence that I received from the Auditor General, requesting again documents so that they could do, conduct their audit. But the inventory was conducted right within the confines of the Department; the files were not taken from the Department to the Ministry; it was done by the Ministry staff, but within the Department’s building; not outside.”


Mark Lizarraga, Business Community Senator

“What did you do when you found there were files missing?”


Candelaria Saldivar-Morter

“Well, we couldn’t really do anything if we couldn’t find the files. At that point we had to find out what files were missing; but, we know the numbers and we may have known some of the names, but there was nothing we could do. We searched for the files and we just couldn’t find them.”


Mark Lizarraga

“Did you find that to be unusual?”


Candelaria Saldivar-Morter

“Well, (laughs) a lot of things were unusual at the Immigration Department, but that was why were trying to put things in place to ensure; but we had to start at some point, and the only way we could know where we were, was to find out what situation it was. And that is why the inventory was done; so that we could know exactly where we were in terms of nationality files.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Ex-Immigration C.E.O. Warns of ‘Unusual’ Events at Department”

  1. Marie says:

    For people to hold a high position in immigration they should be sent to another country for job training. It is not only filling out a form and processing it. You are dealing with the country’s security and others when given to wrong hands. Stop playing politics and give jobs to people that are qualified for the job. Shame on the department and the government.

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