Victims of drug cartel lose refugee court fight

| 29/03/2017 | 69 Comments

(CNS): A family that was targeted and tortured by a violent Mexican drug cartel and is seeking political asylum in the Cayman Islands lost their fight in the Grand Court Tuesday after a judge dismissed a judicial review application. He found the Immigration Appeals Tribunal had not made any error in law that could lead him to quash the decision. But he raised concerns about the situation and that a letter from the UNHCR declaring the family as refugees that was sent to the Cayman Islands governor has been ignored.

The letter presents a final opportunity to prevent Maria Del Piler Ortiz Chavez and her two children, now adults, from being returned to their native Mexico, where they are in genuine fear of being killed by the blood-thirsty drug dealer who kidnapped her daughter, Allura, after she refused to work for the cartel as a translator.

The family first arrived in Cayman almost six years ago from Cuba with a Caymanian friend, and after a few weeks applied for political asylum. They were then interviewed by the chief immigration officer, who refused their application a few months later.

Among other reasons, refugee status is normally conveyed on individuals owing to state threats, indirect state sanctioned threats to people’s lives or the inability of the state to protect those at risk due to war or other political turmoil. In the Chavez family’s case, the application was made on the basis of the failure of the state to protect the family from the cartel because the police chief in the town where the family lived was the brother of the drug gang’s leader and because most of the public servants and those in authority were corrupt and in the pay of the cartel.

The targeting and harassment by the gang began when Chavez, who was a relatively successful business woman, was forced to hand over property to the corrupt police boss. This was followed by violent harassment and intimidation of the family as the gang demanded that her daughter, who was well educated and spoke English, help them with the drug business. This culminated in her kidnapping, when she was held by the gang and subjected to physical violence, including assault, rape and wounding.

Her mother was eventually able to enlist someone she knew in the Mexican army to help and they managed to secure the release of her daughter. The family tried to report the incident to the national Mexican authorities but no professional medical evaluation was done and the official complaint about the kidnapping was ignored. After the family continued to receive death threats from the cartel, they made the decision to leave Mexico.

The chief immigration officer at the time, Linda Evans, who has since been suspended from her job, denied the asylum claim without researching the information or contacting the Mexican authorities, the court heard. The denial was said to have been because the CIO felt the crimes perpetrated against the family were not state supported, so they were not refugees. An appeal to the immigration tribunal also failed largely for the same reason.

Throughout the process the family has struggled with legal representation because they are unable to work and are being cared for by friends and the Cayman government. Though they have been largely without legal advice, local attorney Denis Brady assisted the family with a pro bono appearance at the IAT and the filing of the judicial review before he secured a legal aid certificate for the JR, which took some three years to finally reach the court.

But soon after the failed tribunal hearing and after a judicial review application was filed, a letter was sent to Governor Helen Kilpatrick by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which indicated that the organisation had designated the family as refugees, asking the Cayman government to afford the necessary support to the family under the convention and offered to submit information to support their claim.

But this correspondence was ignored by the governor and was never passed to the Attorney General’s Office.

When the Chavez family became aware of the letter, given its content and the explicit declaration from the UN agency that they were refugees, they assumed, wrongly, that their troubles were over and that their status as asylum seekers would be confirmed and they would be allowed to live, work and remain in Cayman.

However, the court made it clear that there was little it could do about the correspondence as nothing had happened since it arrived. The judge explained that it came after the IAT hearing, which was all he could consider given the limitations of the law surrounding a judicial review.

Expressing his obvious concerns about the plight of the family and how they had suffered, he said that the family should pursue other possible legal avenues as a result of the UN correspondence. Brady confirmed that he planned to see if there was a way to follow through on this window of opportunity and save the family from being returned to Mexico, where their lives would be at risk.

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Category: Courts, Local News

Comments (69)

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  1. Dreadlock Holmes says:

    I can not believe some of these comments. All of you showing so little compassion THINK SERIOUSLY. And it would be best to do that next time you’re in church praying for your own salvation.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    We got our own problems.

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  3. Knot S Smart says:

    How did they get over the wall in the first place?…

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    • Anonymous says:

      But doesn’t mean that immigration is actually doing its job. Laws are actually being enforced. I have been reading posts for years stating that CIG never enforces laws.

      Yet I read that the courts and northward are botg full. You just can’t believe what you read anymore.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can’t you read? A CAYMANIAN friend brought them to your ISLANDS.

      Reading comprehension is fundamental!

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  4. Richard Wadd says:

    I’ve read a lot of very unkind and horrid things commented about this article … shame on us, a supposedly ‘Christian nation’!
    Remember, JESUS was a refugee who’s parents had to flee his birthplace for his safety.
    However with that said, something simply does NOT add up with this story.
    No-one ‘hides’ in plain sight, and certainly someone who is hiding and fearful would not want to draw attention to themselves if they are being ‘hunted’.
    Why come here from CUBA? It is not far easier to hide among 8m spanish speaking people than among 60k english speaking people?
    The CAYMAN ISLANDS is not a soverign nation and we are therefore subject to the direction of the UK in these matters … clearly the Gov office could not have ignored this matter for 6 years. There has to be more to this story than we have been told.
    If their concerns are real, then we have an obligation to help them find safe shelter, but the CAYMAN ISLANDS is most definately not that, as we are far too small a jurisdiction in every sense.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s sad it didn’t work out here. If I were her, I’d get on a plane to the UK or Canada and seek asylum where they are equipped for, and seasoned in, such landed refugee claims. More sophisticated, populous, first world countries, further away from her adversaries ought to be a more appealing resettlement option anyway. She would qualify for free healthcare and “pogey” in Canada within a few months; whereas in Cayman she would need to wait to be conferred Status after 15 years.

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    • Anonymous says:

      International obligations are just that…even this “less equipped and seasoned” island has to comply…

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    • Fred says:

      Except she is never going to get into Canada or UK in the first place. Even if she can persuade the airline to fly them without a visa or entry status, their asylum claim would survive for 39 seconds for exactly the reason the governor turned it down. Asylum only works where they are in justifiable fear of persecution from their domestic government.

  6. Soiled Son says:

    Wow, just wow!!! Here’s what gets me about this story… I’m no fan whatsoever of the United Nations, but you should either be part of it, or not. Apparently, you can have it both ways… I’m not sure why I’m so shocked, I really shouldn’t be. So the family are designated as refugees but the the governor ignores the UNHCR correspondence and does not pass it on to the AG…not that passing it on to the AG would have made much of a difference, I don’t think. In the meantime, at a shop near you, the UK has the gall to lecture, threaten, bully and dictate social and economic policies based on UN resolutions and treaties that they so conveniently ignore whenever the wind blows in a direction that they don’t prefer… Hypocrisy knows no bounds. I guess that’s why those who throw the middle finger to the UK, the US, Russia and a few other global “leaders” are at times revered.

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    • I agree says:

      TRUE.

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    • DA WA YA GET says:

      When those such as the Mexican Cartels use places such as Cayman as hidey holes for their ill gotten and blood soaked gains, it should therefore come as no surprise that those who are the myriad victims of these global inequities and spider’s webs of secretive and deceitful money handling are left to twist in the wind and ignored as ‘collateral damage’ in the interests of a greed induced and self serving agenda. That the FCO and/or the Cayman Islands Government and/or by extension the people of the Cayman Islands and/or anyone else continue to willfully ignore this most ‘inconvenient of truths’ is an indictment upon the constructs of the entire financial industry and the secretive and opaque laws therein.

      Not only has the Cayman Islands been repeatedly implicated in the handling of the monies of murderous dictators, demonic corporate entities, Ponzi schemers and fraudsters, international criminal syndicates and corrupt politicians Ad nauseam, but also the harsh reality is that those same laws have been used and abused by those within the borders of and also by those whose roots are firmly planted upon Cayman’s shores to use and abuse the Cayman Islands and her people, to prostitute our already woefully inadequate democratic process and solidify the institutionalization of corruption to further their own agendas. It is for this reason that I will repeatedly call for, at the very least, the complete entirety of any and all financial dealings of any and all MLAs, including the prospective candidates, to be stripped of any opacity whatsoever as to be made as naked as the day as each individual was born for all and sundry to see.

      To whom much is given, much more is to be expected. That accountability must be exponentially increased above and beyond that of the regular citizen and/or resident and/or member of the electorate. The supposed register of interests is a farce. The litany of conflicts of interest and far worse within the halls of the LA and beyond are at the root base of the institutionalized corruption of the Cayman Islands. There is a collective price to be paid for trading in these global inequities, and Cayman is just beginning to feel the effects of the tip of that which is a toxic iceberg of detrimental and negative consequence.

      The talk of and prideful boasting of a strong Christian spirit is now as hollow as a chocolate Easter bunny rabbit. If the kingdom of heaven is as the eye of the needle, then Cayman is a hippopotamus. I care not for the standards, nor the hypocricies of the rest of the world, I care for the loss of quality of life that Cayman has been subjected to at the hands of those for whom a sociopathic psychopathy is their modus operandi and for whom sociological cannibalization is their daily meal. One and all may choose to kill the messenger but the truth shall remain what it is. Whether they are the powers that be, or the man on the street, or the preacher upon the pulpit will choose to accept it or not, it is what it is.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Why is the attempt to force these people out not a breach of their right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR? The Grand Court cannot make an order breaching that right.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If something happened to a member of the family on being deported CIG would face a very serious damages claim because of a blatant Article 2 violation.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Send them to the U.K. Then a bigger place that is easier to hide and give the family real options of living. Here is just too small, you will easily find them at the supermarket or gas station.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what upsets me more; the story or the comments.

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  9. Fred says:

    Amazing how much outrage there is when <1000 people who have been productively engaged in the economy for years may get PR, but the government gets hounded for being unto suitable to "asylum seekers" like this family or Cubans, without any apparent understanding that a Grant of asylum would not only entitle the individuals to permanent resident and status, but open the doors to the entire category of applicants. Just how many people do you think there are in Mexico who could legitimately claim to be in fear of cartels?

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  10. Henry says:

    And what would stop the cartels from coming to our shores and wrecking havoc for the residents here? Do we have an army to protect us? I would have believed Cuba would have been a better place for ms Chavez and family considering the Cuban government are army strong.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    And how exactly is this Cayman’s problem? That friend that brought them here should support them not our dollars that should go to needy kids! For goodness sake her kids are adults so we are supporting 3 people. Those people that say we are heartless are very welcome to support them on their dime otherwise shut up!

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    • Anonymous says:

      So let me get this straight in my head. They want to stay on a small island like this, to hide from the CARTEL???!!!! Because they will feel safe here???? Not in a large country, but a tiny islands???!! Makes no sense. Why seek asylum here, if you are hiding from an entity such as a cartel??? They have more resources than the Cayman Government.

      They can fly on planes too. Hell, they got their own planes!

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    • Anonymous says:

      CaymanKind.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Its Cayman’s problem because if the ‘first port in a storm’ country turns away legitimate refugees we all (globally, huamnistically) lose. We were their port in a storm. (Though an argument could be made they should be returned to Cuba as refugees that really isn’t a humane alternative as there are people trying to flee from there almost daily.) – Its Cayman’s problem because we’re (rightly) not letting them work while their appeal is being processed.

      I hope that the ‘JR’ of the handling of the UNCHR letter is successful. (Yes, I think we should take these refugees in.)

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      • Anonymous says:

        First port seems to be Cuba.

      • Anonymous says:

        No argument, first port was Cuba.

      • Anonymous says:

        Reality is they went through another country before they arrived in Cuba (almost physically impossible to just go straight from Mexico to Cuba). Begs the question why Cayman all the way from Mexico? Anyway we don’t have enough info. Judge did and he ruled. End of story.

  12. Anonymous says:

    the UNHCR cannot force a country to take persons as they class as a refugee. Let them find the family a place or country to stay! This is not a state issue its a cartel story made up for the persons to feel sorry for them. It seems from the church hearsay, when they arrived they lied about their intended visit like they were visitors, even obtained visas I am sure and then applied for asylum. They travelled through airports like normal people and said hmmm lets try the Cayman Islands today! and don’t forget they did not come by boat! or stow away on a plane! they came through the legit way like it and say lets STAY!

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  13. Anonymous says:

    let it be known that immigration has been funding the family for almost six years while a decision has to be made this includes rent and other expenses so to say they we haven’t assisted is ludicrous. attentively they can go elsewhere, we need to take care of own not others! Our Caymanians have no other place to go!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you; @ 7:41pm.

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    • Jordy B says:

      Thank the universe for people with an honest vision like yours whom create nations of awe (example: The Moors) – you are a modern prophet, because they werent only made back in “biblical times”.

      Blessings, true love and unity your way! Keep your true power!

  14. East says:

    Same old SELFISH Cayman attitude. Never willing to help those in need. Now go sit in church and pretend you’re good people.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Selfish? It would be in this Country’s best interest to send these people along; we do not need to claim other Countries’ issues, we have our own to deal with.

      I will always stand by the motto that you must take care of your OWN first then help others. If we let our problem’s become someone else’s how does that make us look, while all along we do all we can to help others coming in while ignoring our own!?!

      Why didn’t they go the U.S.A from Cuba? Why Cayman?

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  15. JET$ says:

    Yall afraid of local street ‘wannabes’…and you think you can protect these people from the MOST wealthy and genuinely powerful folks in the western hemisphere in 2017?

    Ill wait….

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Jeez, you really going to send these people back when the UNHCR says they are refugees? They are as good as dead already.Shame on you.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    All the talk about accountability, transparency, good governance? In typical colonial style it is “do as I say, not as I do”.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Here we go again. They are Mexicans and Mexico is not a small place), Cuba (not small), but as usual these people find their way to Cayman where they believe that we have to accommodate them. We do not need any more problems, — have the UNHCR come and collect them. We cant afford them – we don’t want them, we don’t need them. Cayman Islands Government needs to stand up and get these going. Remember the Afghanistan may have also come from Cuba,,, we still do not know, at lease most of us don’t. The Syrian and God only knows who else. Immigration and police needs to do their job and seek out these people and DEPORT them! YOU ALL SHOULD BE ASHAME OF YOURSELVES. DO YOUR JOB!!!!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Ah…that old Caymankind song….you and your descendants were most likely an import at one stage, maybe we should send you to Mexico? Or would you claim asylum? What’s good for the goose…

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    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, we can afford them. We have afforded them for 6 years apparently. So please don’t try and cloak your mean-spiritedness in economic probity.

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      • Anonymous says:

        If we had approved their application 6 years ago, they could have been contributing to the economy for 6 years by working, paying taxes and spending money.

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  19. vote for McKeeva says:

    Naming her in the local news will do nothing better for her situation or our island.

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  20. T Drump says:

    Not our problem. Send them back yes!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Caymankind.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Your church tell you to say that?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Is that what they teach you at bible reading classes?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Always the same sacrilegious comments; it’s like if you go to church or believe in a higher power, you are the worst person ever….

        I don’t attend church, let’s get that out, I believe in a higher power though; these people should not have been allowed here. Mexico and Cayman have no ties.

        Say what you will but Cayman is already over-populated and we have no reason to offer asylum to these folks. We always seem to bite off more than we can chew and swallow…why?

        We are not the U.S.A, not the U.K, not Russia or China….who we trying to impress with this ignorance?

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        • Anonymous says:

          The higher power of being nasty? What if this was you and your family? Trying to protect your kids and someone wants to send you back where you could be persecuted or killed? You don’t need a church to be a spineless coward, but you do need to do what is right. If you can’t see it then go to church because the label is correct. “Holier than thou”

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like the governor sat on this letter and did nothing to help this family who were in such difficult circumstances.

    Mr Dennis Brady seemed to be the only one who showed empathy and compassion to this family.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Trust the useless Queen’s representative. Always on vacation on SMB.

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  23. Sharkey says:

    I have to give it to the Immigration this time , not the Judge . Why didn’t the UNHCR take them and give them shelter . But with this issue alot of crime could follow , and do we want that kind of problem for Cayman Islands ?

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    • Anonymous says:

      yes trump lets keep the mexicans out. rapists killers and drug dealers…

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    • DA WA YA GET says:

      Are you willfully blind, deaf and dumb? Do you not know about the HSBC scandal involving money laundering for these same cartels? Guess who is here? There be the problem, genius, not the presence of those who are trying to escape that hell on earth and who by the sounds of it are innocent victims. The truth is an offence, but not a sin.

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    • Anonymous says:

      We should take them because we are required to by law.

      Where would the UNHCR put them? Its a institution not a country, it doesn’t own anywhere or anything.

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  24. Anonymous says:

    Our failures just pile up day after day. What a disgrace!

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  25. Anonymous says:

    The only time immigration department or related boards will actually do anything is if a friend or family is somehow concerned….oh and sometimes ego power trip. How could Governor have dropped the ball? She can’t be that busy.

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