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Nicaragua: Public Employees Hindered from Traveling to USA

Two public employees planning to travel to the US through humanitarian parole met with obstacles: one was denied a passport, the other was threatened

Foto: Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

25 de abril 2024


Two Nicaraguan government employees were forced to abandon their intentions to travel to the United States through the humanitarian parole program. One was denied a passport, and the other was threatened by her superiors when she told them she was planning to resign and accept the parole offer.

“Martha” [assumed name] has worked for a Managua public agency since December 2023. She found a sponsor for the US humanitarian parole program, and without informing her immediate bosses, applied for a passport in January 2024.

“I paid the passport fee, and up until then everything was going well. Eight days later, when I returned (to the Immigration office) to pick it up, they told me it wasn’t ready yet. I returned two more times, only to receive the same response,” Martha told Confidencial. Suspecting she was being given the runaround for some reason, she asked for a review of her case.

State workers can’t leave Nicaragua

“An agent at the Immigration office took me back to his office, and explained that the passport was ready, but that he couldn’t give it to me because I hadn’t notified my superiors that I was planning to travel. He told me that everyone who worked for the government must give notice of any plans to travel,” Martha stated.

In Nicaragua’s public agencies, or institutions like the Supreme Court or the National Council of Universities, they’ve distributed memorandums informing the workers they can’t leave Nicaragua without explicit authorization. Some have been stopped and interrogated at the border posts when they’ve tried to leave the country, even after they resigned.

In Martha’s case, she says that the Migration agent’s explanation “frightened” her greatly. She confirmed that they maintain a list of all the public employees who shouldn’t receive a passport or leave the country.

“I didn’t expect to have a problem, even though I realize I’m not the only one this has happened to,” the functionary stressed. After that, she decided to give up her idea of accepting parole and to continue her work instead.

“I thought that my boss was going to call me in at any moment and question me about why I wanted to travel without notifying them, but up until now, he hasn’t done so,” she explained.

Not wanting to be “labeled,” she resigned herself to staying

In another case, “Ingrid,” who also works for a public agency in Managua, silently requested the right to legal temporary residency in the US through the humanitarian parole program. In mid-February, she got the notice of approval. At that point, she decided to inform her bosses. She told them that she was planning to resign and to ask for her severance pay.

“They began to tell me to be careful, and that they wouldn’t give me severance, because I held a position of trust. Because of that, it was also likely I wouldn’t be allowed to leave the country. They instilled tremendous fear in me,” she recalled.

Ingrid abandoned her travel plans in order to avoid reprisals against herself and her family. When she confirmed that she’d been “labeled,” she resigned herself to remaining in the country.

“These people (the government) are capable of anything. They don’t care that you’ve put in a lifetime working for the government – when they see that you want to go, they label you a traitor, and at the same time try and retain you,” she lamented.

Following the April 2018 protests, the public employees have denounced ever-increasing persecution and surveillance. They complain that they’re being held hostage in their own country and in their workplaces; that they’re forced to “donate” a part of their salary to the Sandinista Party and to participate in Party activities, even on weekends and holidays.

In January 2023, Confidencial published an investigative report in which public employees denounced that the majority were forbidden to leave Nicaragua, while others were granted “selective” permission.”

In cases of high-level functionaries in State institutions like the Supreme Court, the travel restrictions sometimes extend to family members as well. In all the cases, the employees are offered no explanation, only told they can’t travel.

They say that if we leave, it’s treason”

Humanitarian parole is a program the US has established that allows migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti to travel, live and work in the country legally for two years. The program for Nicaraguans entered into effect in January 2023.

In the first year the program opened, over 47,000 Nicaraguans emigrated to the United States in that way.

Confidencial has confirmed that a number of former government employees and Sandinista militants or deserters have managed to enter the US as either undocumented immigrants or through humanitarian parole.

Martha also knows of cases of former public employees and workers who left Nicaragua without complications. Nonetheless, she affirms that in the institutions, they’re warned that “if they try to leave,” there’ll be “consequences.”

“They tell us that we shouldn’t be looking for anything outside, because there are opportunities here, there’s work. They say that if we leave, it’s part of a betrayal of the government, and it will have consequences for us,” she explained. Martha feels anguish at not being allowed to leave Nicaragua, and feels they denied her a passport out of “pure whim.” “I feel like my hands are tied… they (the government) think they own everything,” she lamented.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.