Political/Economic and Public Diplomacy Affairs official of the US Mission to the Dutch Caribbean Willem Remie and US Consul General and Chief of Mission to the Dutch Caribbean Margy Bond.
By Judy Fitzpatrick
PHILIPSBURG--The much talked about and heavily debated United States (US) pre-clearance is off the table for St. Maarten for now.
US Consul General and Chief of Mission to the Dutch Caribbean Margy Bond told The Daily Herald in an exclusive interview in St. Maarten on Thursday that the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not be proceeding with pre-clearance with the country for now, but indicated that this does not mean that it won’t be possible in the future. The “pause” in pre-clearance is based on the US CBP’s budgetary constraints coupled with current national security priorities.
Bond, who made her first visit to St. Maarten this week since assuming her new post on January 20, met with a number of local officials on Wednesday, who were apprised of this development.
“There is new leadership in CBP. There has been, just as all of the islands, and all of our governments have had to make adjustments because of COVID,” Bond said during a sit down at a guest house in Simpson Bay. “A lot of CBP’s budget comes from fees – travel fees and so their budget has really been affected by COVID, as well as numerous crises. The withdrawal from Afghanistan has really required CPB to put a lot of their resources into the post Afghanistan situation. The Southwest border of the United States, again, requiring a lot of resources and we anticipate also additional CBP resources being required to address the aftermath of [the] Russia/Ukraine situation. So, at this moment CPB’s budget situation, decisions by their leadership, and pressing crises that affect US national security mean that we are not proceeding at this moment with St. Maarten,” Bond explained.
Asked whether this information has been conveyed to authorities in St. Maarten, she responded: “Absolutely. It was the first thing I mentioned when I met with everybody because I wanted to be very transparent. I didn’t want anybody in the government of St. Maarten to hear it through rumours or gossip or speculation, because I do know it’s a political issue as well here and that it would be a disappointment, and it’s a disappointment as well for me. It’s something that I looked forward to advancing, but given the current circumstances, there is a pause so I’d like to leave it there. There is a pause, but that doesn’t mean that in the future it won’t be an opportunity.”
While in St. Maarten, Bond met with, amongst others, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs; Justice Minister Anna Richardson; Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) Rodolphe Samuel; Governor Eugene Holiday and President of Parliament Grisha Heyliger-Marten.
Bond explained that when she arrived in Curaçao in January, the issue of pre-clearance was one of the first questions she asked herself, as she had read in the media about the pre-clearance debate, as well as efforts to modernise the airport, amongst other things. She wanted to find out for herself where pre-clearance stood and she reached out to CBP to get an update and learned about the “pause”.