Published On: Fri, Jan 22nd, 2021

Justice ministry loses another immigration case in court

PHILIPSBURG — Not even a week after the Ministry of Justice and its Immigration Department suffered a defeat in court for incorrectly denying a residence permit to an applicant holding a director’s license, the Court of Appeal handed down another ruling in favor of an applicant for a residence permit.

Related article: Justice Minister oversteps authority with Compliance Department

The case at hand was prepared by Brenda Brooks and handled in court by her associate, attorney Safira Ibrahim.

According to Brooks & Associates the plaintiff followed all the rules to regulate his stay with his wife in St. Maarten. Procedures dictate that the immigration department gives permission for such a marriage through the counsel of his native country in St. Maarten. The marriage as approved, the couple got married and then the plaintiff went off island to await a decision about his residence permit.

Unfortunately, bureaucracy and Hurricane Irma threw a spanner in the works. The application for family formation must be submitted within a year of the marriage but this proved to be impossible. “The wife was dependent on dates issued by the Census Office and then came Hurricane Irma,” Brooks & Associates writes in a press statement. The marriage was only registered after two years and subsequently the residence permit was submitted.

At first, the ministry denied the permit saying that the request was filed too late and that the wife did not have sufficient income to support her husband.

When the plaintiff appealed the decision to the minister, another reason for rejection surfaced:  the immigrant had resided for several years illegally in St. Maarten prior to the request for a residence permit. The ministry considered this to be a violation of the public order.

When the case went to the Court in First Instance, the ministry had to withdraw the argument that the wife had insufficient income. The guidelines set a gross monthly income of 2,000 guilders as the minimum and the wife could prove that she met this requirement.

The court ruled that the ministry could not use the applicant’s previous illegal stay on the island as an argument for rejection, but it still denied the permit because it held the plaintiff responsible for registering the marriage too late and for filing the request for the residence permit too late as well.

The court of appeal overruled the lower court, ruling that the delay in the marriage’s registration was not the immigrant’s fault.

The court ordered the minister of Justice to take a new decision and made clear that the previous grounds for rejection – the income-requirement, the late registration of the marriage or the illegal stay – cannot be used as reasons to deny the permit again.

The ministry has to pay legal and court fees for the plaintiff to the tune of 3,250 guilders.