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Maria Marin Testimony Continues With Damning Clues
posted (January 11, 2017)

Last week, the Senate Hearings on the Immigration Department resumed when the Committee called up the Former Acting Director of Immigration Maria Marin.

Marin was careful but critical of the culture at the Department in which UDP Minister's of government took great interest in seeing their favoured applicants approved for visas, nationality certificates, and passports. In some instances, persons who they recommended did not qualify, but the persistent politicians in concert with all too willing public officers were able to get those documents approved by the Immigration Department anyway.

Well, today, Committee Chairman, Aldo Salazar, asked Marin to go into further detail about this culture of political meddling at the Department, and this time around, she gave some very revealing answers.

We'll get to that, but first, we report to you tonight about that list of elected officials who Marin put together in her quest to track the frequency with which certain ministers were sending in recommendations on behalf of applicants. She disclosed last week that she started noticing an upward trend of recommendations coming to her desk, and this was cause for alarm. She said that she started putting together a list to document these recommendations, and she was asked by the Senate Committee to produce that list. She has, and we tried everything to get it to share with you but the Committee refused us on the grounds that they cannot disclose it at this time.
  
Here's the Committee discussing that list briefly today, followed by Marin's careful but candid remarks on her attempts to reform the department when she became the Acting Director:

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"What actions, or what was the reason for having the list? You submitted it, what happened. What transpired because of your keeping track of these things."

Maria Marin - Former Acting Immigration Director
"Shortly thereafter, we saw the numbers decreasing. We definitely saw numbers decreasing."

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"At the last session, you had mentioned that your desire when you came in as director, or as acting director, was to change the culture that existed in the Department."

"I want you to address what you perceive as the culture at the time when you came to lead the department."

Maria Marin - Former Acting Immigration Director
"When I came on board, I was - As the Deputy Director - I was aware of cases where we would have people coming in to the department, like what were referred to as agents, who would come in and bring in application forms. We would have case were as the Deputy Director, holding over for the then Director, when they went on leave or were out of office for some reason, I experienced that there were that there were requests that were coming for applications to be approved, without having all the necessary requirements or supporting documents in some instances. There were situations where I was able to see that there were officers who were being approached by Ministers - for what reason I don't know, but they went to them for - to take papers, and to accept papers - documents I guess, for applications. And, I also, at the Deputy, was involved in several cases of - investigation cases of alleged wrongdoings, where we saw - where we were able to gather evidence which we thought was good evidence, and we would take it up, and nothing happened."

"The other thing was accounting, to accounting, to account, to submit records, and to keep the proper form of records. In many cases, since there wasn't - that culture was not there then. It was difficult to have the officers accept it, become a part of it, and own it."

"When I was offered the post of acting director, that was a point of discussion, and so, I had indicated that I had a different vision for the Department than the vision that may have been had previously, because I was of the opinion that there was a lot of room for improvement, but that it would take, also, a lot of commitment from the decision makers. To provide the resources for it and I was told that is the way we want to go, and we will support you, and in many instances. We would present - like I mentioned earlier, we would do the ground work, the assessment, the proposal, and while it was supported, in the end, the real results still were not achieved."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"You were not able to break this culture, and I am trying understand if your role, way back from 2010, was to improve these systems, to make policies and procedures, so clear that people had to follow them, what went wrong?"

Maria Marin - Former Acting Immigration Director
"Like I said, we needed to have the support from the decision makers."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"So, the failure to follow policies and procedures, you're saying, is that you did not have the support from the policy makers - from the politicians."

Maria Marin - Former Acting Immigration Director
"Basically; I did not feel that enough was being done, and therefore, I am saying that the support was not there."

"There is a sincere desire to address the issues at the department. For too long, it has been going on and on, and for too long, we have talked the talk, but for too long, we have not walked that talk. And I think - I believe that if we really love this country, we need to walk that talk, from the top - the very top, to the very bottom. Because, even if you have genuine people, it is difficult for genuine people to function where that support is not there, when it doesn't exist, or where the support is half met. 'Oh, we're going to do this, and then, we don't finalize that process, and we don't commit to seeing from the beginning to the end, despite the fact that the work is getting done by those who really want to see a difference."

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