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Lawyer Calls For Help Over Us Visas

By KHRISNA VIRGIL kvirgil@tribunemedia.net AFTER almost five years of helping an "alarming number" of Bahamians regain once revoked United States visas, an immigration lawyer is calling for the government's intervention to the matter, which is a "cause for concern". Donnette Russell-Love, a Grand Bahamian who practices law in Miami, Florida, raised the issue to a group of PLP officials who visited the city to court Bahamian students and citizens who reside in the state for the 2012 general elections. Those persons, will for the first time be allowed, if eligible, to cast their votes at the Bahamas Consulate one day before the election begins. According to the attorney, she has been greatly concerned with the rate at which mothers who give birth to their children in the US have lost their travel visas. She said: "Being from Grand Bahama, and being familiar with the Rand Memorial Hospital, I know how dilapidated and how difficult it is to get adequate health care, especially if you have a difficult pregnancy, which is the case for a lot of mothers. They come to the states to get good health care. "After doing that, when they try to travel with their kids, their visas are cancelled. I've had a number of clients like that." Mrs Russell-Love attributed the "baseless revocations" to a belief by US officials that Bahamians may use the overseas births to gain permanent access to the country. "The government might feel like the mother has some aspirations to move to the US because of that US-born child," she said. "They'll make up something that says we see here in the computer that you didn't pay your hospital bills, knowing that these people did. After years, who travels around with paid hospital bills?" While having a revoked visa reinstated is possible, Mrs Russell-Love said the process is extremely expensive, difficult and complicated. She said: "It is possible to get a waiver, if they have the reputable proof, but money can be an issue as fees begin from $2500. They climb if the firm has to do some leg work like getting hospital records." A reinstatement is also discretionary, as that decision solely rests in the US government's hands, Mrs Russell-Love said. To add insult to injury, she said there has been a constant outcry concerning the treatment of Bahamians by US embassy officials. "I am told that they are being poorly treated at the embassy, they are very rude to them, I've had clients call me from the embassy in tears. I've sent a lot of emails to their supervisors about their treatment of my clients." In response, the PLP's spokesman on foreign affairs Fred Mitchell said a disconnect exists because the present government has not prioritised the problem. He said: "The problem with the present administration is that they have no political interest in trying to deal with that issue. We have a very serious political interest in it. "During our time, we were active with the then US ambassador in trying to get some issues resolved on an individual basis." Mr Mitchell said the PLP plans to make major advances in having the issue rectified. "Our view is that CARICOM and the Bahamas government are to approach the United States Government because in our view there is no reason why Bahamians should need visas to come to the US at all."

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