Opinion: Illegals, one more time

POSTED: 08/25/11 12:52 PM

Justice Minister Duncan is in full operational mode these days and he seems not afraid to grab the bull by the horns. The BTA-investigation revealed something to the minister that he already suspected: when the whole BTA-process is behind us, there will still be plenty of illegals in St. Maarten.
That is no surprise, as it will not come as a surprise to anybody that the arrival of new illegals won’t stop just because the government has decided that everybody has to be legal.
What is also not so much of a surprise is the fact that more than 1,600 people have been taken advantage off by unscrupulous characters Duncan identified as bogus employers.
It is not hard to figure out how this went down. When BTA-applicants found no support from their real employer (if they had one to begin with) automatically a market emerged for serving this need. A bogus employer is, we imagine, a small time crook who smells an opportunity to make money out of people who find themselves in a desperate situation. They’re a bit like the people who will sell you a bottle of tap water for fifteen dollars after a hurricane.
Are these characters detestable? Sure they are. But who are these bogus employers? It’s hard to make an educated guess without information, but chances are that they belong to the circle of immigrants themselves. That does not exclude the possibility that locals took part in the scheme as well’; after all, some people have been arrested (and later released) on suspicion of wrongdoing with the BTA-applications.
The good news is however that the government is aware of the identity of these bogus employers. They will sooner or later have their day in court and then the truth will come out.
More painful however, is the realization that there are apparently real employers who have refused to stand up for their illegal employees. By doing this, they created the market for the bogus employers.
And why did these legal employers refuse to help their illegal employees? That’s not difficult: illegal labor is cheap, and by making them legal, they become more expensive.
Still, the employers who still have illegal on (or behind) the payroll will have to fess up sooner or later. When they come clean within the next two or three weeks, Justice Minister Duncan may forgive them, but finance Minister Shigemoto or the tax office will come after them with a healthy bill for taxes, social premiums and so on.
This makes us think that legal employers will not readily answer Minister Duncan’s call, simply because they think that doing the right thing could become very expensive. Duncan has a secret weapon at his disposal, and it’s called the law. Employers who don’t answer his call and who are found employing illegals afterwards face a maximum fine of 100,000 guilders, around $55,000.
We guess it’s time to take out the pocket calculators and to determine what is worse: being bitten by the dog or being bitten by the cat.
It could very well be that this clean up action comes at a higher cost than many companies are able to bear. Earlier this week, Chamber of Commerce President Glen Carty said that everybody has to pay taxes but that the purpose of the exercise is not to kill businesses.
That sounds like a comforting thought for employers who want to do the right thing, but who don’t out of fear for financial consequences that have the potential to make their business go belly up.
In the meantime, we’ll keep an eye on the way Minister Duncan is going to deal with illegals after his two to three weeks grace period has expired.

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