An immigration oddity: an involuntary immigrant and the Law Lords

By David North on November 21, 2022

Routinely immigration to a nation is a voluntary act.

One may be fleeing poverty or war, but one’s decision to come to country X is voluntary; one wants to leave, say, South Sudan and to come to, say, the U.S.

But a rare exception, involving serious criminal charges, the United States Department of Justice, Trinidad and Tobago, and FIFA (the Federation Internationale de Football Association) popped up before London’s Law Lords earlier this month.

The prospective involuntary migrant in question is Jack Austin Warner, a T&T politician and a long-time, high-ranking official of soccer’s FIFA. The U.S. wants to try him on a series of criminal matters dealing with FIFA’s operations, and has sought to extradite him. Austin, on the other hand, would rather stay in T&T.

The U.S. extradition attempt, now seven years old, was resisted by Warner in the local courts but he kept losing there so he appealed to T&T’s ultimate court of appeal, that of the Judicial Committee of the UK’s Privy Council or more commonly the Law Lords. The Law Lords, all Brits, and all members of high British courts, have a unique set of jurisdictions consisting of many current and former British colonies, the Isles of Jersey and Guernsey, the Isle of Man, and some odds and ends of legal entities nearly lost in history, such as the UK’s High Court of Chivalry.

The Law Lords sit in panels of three or five, and (unlike our Supreme Court) rarely disagree with each other; their hearings are recorded and can be seen on the internet. In this case Lords Hodge, Briggs, Hamblen and Burrows and Sir Declan Morgan decided, unanimously, that Austin should be extradited.

This suggests that Austin is about to become an involuntary immigrant to the U.S. soon.

To read the court’s lengthy decision, or to view the hearings, click here. I became interested in the Law Lords when, more than twenty years ago, I was the (part-time) U.S. correspondent for Fiji’s then newsmagazine, the Pacific Islands Monthly.