By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A JUDGE yesterday lamented that court fines do not seem to be a deterrent to illegal immigration and were “making things worse”, adding undocumented migrants will “go to jail for a longer time” if they keep coming to her court.
The comments came from Senior Magistrate Carolyn Vogt-Evans after she sentenced several undocumented migrants to prison for immigration offenses.
Among them were five Haitian men who were sentenced to a collective ten months at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services for illegal landing.
Torly Rafael, Flerice Honore, Jilean Octave, Gregoire Jude and Jimo Joseph were each sentenced to two months in prison for their actions. Joseph, 19, of Port de Paix, was living under the radar in the Bahamas for over a year up to the time he was captured by immigration authorities.
Before receiving their respective sentences, Rafael, Honore, Octave and Jude each expressed remorse for their actions, with Honore and Octave saying they snuck in for a “better life” and to escape the “reality” of what is happening in Haiti.
Jude, meanwhile, told Magistrate Vogt-Evans that the reason he committed the offense was because he was not aware that illegal entry was a crime.
“I am sorry but I did not know the country’s laws,” he said through translator Charlene Jean.
However, when Magistrate Vogt-Evans asked him why he didn’t go to the United States since he was unaware that his actions were illegal, Jude said: “The Bahamas is easier for me.”
After being sentenced, a clergyman who was there on behalf of Honore and Jude stood up in court and asked if their sentences could instead be commuted to a fine. However, the magistrate replied: “When we do the fine, that’s why they keep coming, because we just keep fining them.”
She also said: “Just couple of dollars, all the time, all the time. When is it going to stop? Because everybody is going to find the couple dollars for the fine. It’s beyond that for me now. It’s not getting through. The fine is not a deterrent, it’s making things worse. And that is why. And if more keep coming, the more they’ll go to jail for a longer time.”
Meanwhile a Haitian woman who appeared before the judge yesterday was sentenced to a year in prison for sneaking into the country and living under the radar for over a decade.
Philise Jerome, 40, of St Louis du Nord, was sentenced by Magistrate Vogt-Evans after revealing she snuck into the country sometime before 2006.
Jerome said she has a child who is about to turn 13, who was born at Princess Margaret Hospital, placing her arrival in the country at 12 years ago at the very least.
That child resides at a home on Faith Avenue. The father used to assist Jerome in taking care of the child, but not anymore. She since got married, and also has a two-year-old, but not with her husband, the court heard.
Another Haitian woman, 21-year-old Katianna Gee of Port de Paix, was sentenced to a year in prison after admitting to sneaking into the country sometime in 2011.
Gee was caught hiding in a baby’s playpen with clothes draped over her to conceal her presence after officers stormed an apartment complex on Fritz Lane on Wednesday.
Three other Haitian women – Dieuna François, Nadia Delaise, and Malite Jean – were collectively sentenced to four months in prison for illegal landing.
Delaise, of Cape Haitien, was sentenced to only one month due to the fact that she has a child. Jean also got only one month because she is pregnant.
François, of Port au Prince, was ordered to serve two months in prison. However, a friend of her father stood up in court and said she didn’t actually sneak into the country.
He explained that François, 27, has a Haitian passport, and had received two extensions to remain in the country. However, he said, when immigration officers breached the residence François was in, someone who stayed there told her to give the officers a false name.
Magistrate Vogt-Evans said she would adjourn the matter until today to allow him to speak with immigration officers on the matter. However, she said, she expects that by the time they return to court, a different charge may be levied against François.
Thus, the magistrate told him to “make sure bring some money”.
Immigration officers Avia Beckford and Shandeshia Marshall prosecuted yesterday’s cases.