By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AN American woman accused of harbouring her brother illegally in the Bahamas was charged in the Magistrate’s Court on Friday for breach of the Immigration Act.
Minerva Eduarda Taveras, a US citizen of Spanish speaking origin, and her brother, Osiris Toribio Rivas were arraigned in Court One before Deputy Chief Magistrate Debbye Ferguson.
Taveras, who legally entered the country, was charged with harbouring, and Rivas was charged with overstaying his time in the country.
Because the pair could not speak English, an interpreter was brought in to assist the court and the accused during their arraignment.
It is alleged that on October 24, Tavares while at Motel 8 in Eight Mile Rock with deliberate intent to evade the apprehension by Immigration officers and knowingly harboured an illegal person Armento Rivas.
They both pleaded guilty the offences.
Immigration officer Jamaal McIntosh was prosecutor. He reported that on October 24 at about 10.30am immigration officers proceeded to Motel 8 at Eight Mile Rock, where they went to room 811. A female occupant with a Spanish accent opened the door and the officers inquired about her legal status in the country.
She presented the officers with her American passport, which showed that she had been admitted in the country on October 13 and was granted a one-month stay. The officers asked the woman if they could search the room, but she told them not without papers.
While awaiting a search warrant, the officers asked Tavares if there was anyone else in the room and she told them that no one else was there.
After obtaining a search warrant, officers searched inside the room and discovered Rivas hiding in the bathroom.
On producing his passports, officer found that Revas had entered the country legally on September 28, 2018 and was granted a one-week stay. He later applied on October 3 to the Immigration Department for a short-term work permit as an entertainer, but the permit had expired on October 23.
Immigration officials said Rivas had overstayed his time in the country by 20 days.
Both were arrested and taken to Immigration Headquarters, where they were processed and charged with breach of the Immigration Act.
Paul Wallace-Whitfield represented the sister and brother. In his mitigation, he told the court that Rivas had entered the country legally and was remorseful for breaking the country’s immigration law.
“We think the punishment should be a fine - a reasonable one, and we are asking nothing higher than $1,500,” said Mr Wallace-Whitfield. He also noted that with regards to the overstaying charge, it must have been an oversight on his client’s part, explaining that Rivas cannot speak English and did not understand the immigration officers while in custody and must have been intimidated at time of his arrest.
The immigration officer said that Spanish speaking persons were available at the Headquarters to assist the accused.
Magistrate Ferguson convicted Rivas. He was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine or 18 months imprisonment. She gave him until October 29 to the pay fine. She also ordered that Rivas is to be deported out the country immediately on payment of the fine or serving the custodial sentence.
Taveras was fined $3,000 or six-month imprisonment.