Instead of throwing out locally-recruited staff at the Trinidad and Tobago missions in the United States, give them time to regularise their status under the US programme.
This is the recommendation of former Trinidad and Tobago ambassador to Washington, Reginald Dumas. He said the new policy of the Government with respect to the hiring of staff at the mission is bound to cause hardship to a number of people who now run the risk of deportation.
“That might be considered harsh because people have not been given any warning. Presumably, the policy is going to go into immediate effect,” he said.
Dumas said he would urge the Government to allow the persons who are illegal to seek to regularise their (immigration) status in the United States before simply showing them the door, assuming that these people are performing properly in their jobs.
He said the question of people working in missions in the United States on A2 visas has gone on for decades now.
“Persons who did not satisfy the immigration critiera to stay in the US were safe if they got a job at the Consulate or the Embassy or the Permanent Mission to the United Nations, because the US government took the position that since they were working for a foreign government they would not interfere with that person,” said Dumas.
The person’s A2 visa has to be renewed periodically.
The Attorney General (Anand Ramlogan) is now saying that this policy is not on any more and a person has to be a legal immigrant in order to work at any Trinidad and Tobago mission, said Dumas.
“That, of course, puts a lot of people in jeopardy and that is a little hard because people have been living there (in the United States) for many, many years now. They have families, they have children at school. And, all of a sudden, they have no work, no visa and therefore are illegal and can be deported. So this is going to have a very negative impact on a lot of people,” he said.
On the other hand, Dumas said, a long time ago, the United States government said it would be prepared to regularise the situation of people who were there illegally.
“Have the people in our missions sought to take advantage of that programme? And if not, why?
“What efforts did they make under the US programme to legalise their stay? If they made no attempt, then they too have to be held to be at fault...(because) you can’t just say ‘I am working with the (T&T) Government and therefore I am cool’.
“You have to think about yourself and you have to make efforts to protect yourself and therefore you can’t put all the blame on the Government.”
Dumas also noted that it was at this same mission (the New York Consulate) that an examination was given in 2012.
Eight persons were fired for “failing” the exam, but those who “passed” faced the hurdle of their A2 visas not being recommended for renewal by the Government, which is now saying that they must have immigration status to be employed at the mission.
“Even the question of setting an exam was something that was totally new to me. I don’t know what the reason for the exam was, what the questions were, who set the questions, who marked the exam. (Consul-General) Mrs (Nan) Ramgoolam would have to say. And if you have a situation in which those who passed the exam now run the risk of deportation, then it becomes something which might be considered a human tragedy. Because they got into the mission on a certain basis and now that basis has been pulled from under them and they are not in a position to do anything about it.”
Dumas also raised the issue of whether the United States had indicated that it would prefer if people were legal residents before being employed by missions.
“It may well be that the United States prefers that there should be such a policy. I don’t know...I have not heard of it regarding other countries,” he said.