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Isabella Acevedo arrested at daughter’s wedding


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The Guardian is reporting that Isabella Acevedo, former immigration minister Mark Harper’s former cleaner, was arrested at her daughter’s wedding on Friday last week. Fifteen blackshirts burst in along with a few regular police officers just before the ceremony, it is said. The Daily Mail picked up the story but it does not seem to have been picked up elsewhere.

Ms Acevedo, who is from Columbia, was the cause of Harper’s resignation earlier this year after it emerged that she did not have legal status to work in the UK. 

Trenton Oldfield, the Australian who successfully resisted deportation after disrupting the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, tried to film the arrest. You can see what happened in a short clip on the Guardian website.

I do not know whether Ms Acevedo had “gone to ground” and, like some major mafia boss, the only way she could possibly be seized was at a major family occasion. Somehow, I doubt it. The episode reeks of revenge. Why disrupt her daughter’s wedding? If really necessary, why not at least wait until afterwards? Why use so much force? Why shut down the attempt to film?

Meanwhile, in other news, Mark Harper returned to the government last week in the “bonfire of the moderates” reshuffle.

It does not look good for a liberal democracy. And there will be more of this on the way with the new Immigration Act, under which landlords are co-opted as immigration informers and the Home Office expects to be “investigating” a massive 6,000 weddings a year.

UPDATE: It is reported she is now detained at Yarl’s Wood and faces removal on Thursday.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


32 Responses

  1. She came, she overstayed, she worked illegally, she even decided to work illegally for the Minister for Immigration, these were all decisions she made, if the Government are to be criticized it would be for not detaining and removing her sooner (It seems likely that she had in fact absconded, or yes to put it another way “gone to ground”).

    Labeling this as “revenge” and “sickening” and other such hyperbole is childish, my colleagues were simply enforcing the law, as approved by parliament in in turn the people, “immigration lawyers”, are selective in terms of which bits of the law they personally approve of. Some of those who are passed comment on this incident are even ignorant enough to claim that the operation conducted by ‘Border Force’ staff (the clue is in the name).

    1. So you think it is fine and appropriate to seize her before her daughter’s wedding in such a show of force? Why ruin the wedding? Why not do it quietly? It is hardly reassuring that you claim to work at the Home Office, which comes out of this looking like a goon squad.

      There are some perfectly nice, humane and respectful human beings who do difficult work at the Home Office. You don’t seem to be one of them.

    2. PO its the relish with which you ‘blackshirts’ carry out your duties. A bit more than reminiscent of Hitler’s blackshirts. Can it be that the kind of people who want to do your job have a penchant for such work?
      Detention centres have been condemned and deportations have led to deaths. Do you enjoy your family lives as well?

    3. It took 15 Enforcement Officers and 5 Police Officer to arrest one woman. Unbelieveable!
      2 EOs and 1 police officer should have been adequate. No wonder the Government is costing us all a fortune.
      Enforcement Director Mandie Cambell was questioned by Keith Vaz MP Chair of the HO Select Committee. Her answer was pathetic. Save the tax payer money sack half of these EOs because they are under employed and over paid!

  2. It does seem true that some in the Home Office take a particular interest in gate crashing wedding parties. I’ve had cases where the ‘gate crashers’ were so badly informed that they handcuffed the European national because he was the only one unable to speak English and was therefore of course the illegal migrant seeking to get married. The ‘gate crashers’ were then dumbfounded that they had handcuffed the wrong person.

    ‘But he does not speak English’ they cried on the telephone when challenged.

    ‘That’s because he’s a Romanian national, but he is still a European exercising treaty rights’.

    They then decided to remove his handcuffs and handcuff the Brazilian bride who did speak English but turned out that she was in the UK without leave.

    ‘OK so now you have handcuffed the illegal migrant, please explain why you are breaking up a perfectly legitimate marriage?’ .

    ‘well it stands to reason’ they say smugly having discovered the art of logic ‘that if she is Brazilian and he is Romanian who does not speak English it cannot possibly be a legitimate marriage because they do not speak a common language!’ – ‘Ah ha! problem solved!’

    ‘Have you actually spoken to the Romanian national?’

    ‘No of course not he does not speak English and therefore was engaging in a sham marriage because they do not share a common language. Why is this so difficult to understand?’

    ‘Well if you had spoken with him you would understand that though he does not speak English he and his fiance do share a common language – Portuguese’

    ‘What?’ they cry ‘Why should we believe that?’

    ‘Well if you had actually spoken with him, as you are supposed to do before arresting him and hauling him off to the police station in handcuffs, you would have found out that not only has he been living with the lady for 3 years in a relationship that could only be described as durable, but he had previously been living in Portugal and speaks fluent Portuguese. Now since you have failed to follow the law do you think you could release my client from detention as she has a perfectly legitimate application before the Secretary of State?’

  3. She decided to overstay, to work illegally, not to return voluntarily and (it seems) not to report as instructed, an opportunity arose, the authorities seized it, the law is being enforced, as ever Colin, you have no “alternative hypothesis”.

  4. May be ‘PO’ should take the time to read the inscription on the memorial Obelisk to Thomas Paine in Angel Square.

    ‘Lay then the axe to the root and teach governments humanity’

    Be interesting to know whether the daughter was marrying a European national? If so said illegal cleaner and scourge of the ruling class would possibly have a right of residence as a direct relative in the ascending line. Unless of course Harpy, Cameroon and Osbob and the motley crew take us out of Europe.

    Lets have a complete bonfire of the treaties and conventions and take us out of everything….including common market and while we’re about it abolish common law along with common decency and have a a good old Fourth Reich where everyone does exactly as they are told, especially those pesky people called lawyers and bleeding heart liberals and then we can have courts that impose the real law – that being whatever the likes of Harpy, Cameroon and Osbob says the law is because they were ‘democratically elected’!.

    In 1933 German General election the National Socialists achieved 37.21% of the vote on a turnout of 84.1%. They were forced into a coalition.

    In 2010 the Conservatives only managed 36.1% on a 65.1% turnout. They were forced into a coalition.

    Go figure that one out!

    In both cases the countries were bankrupt when the parties came to power. Seems that morality has a price and history repeats itself.

    Rant done.

    1. While perhaps an arrest at her daughter’s wedding was not the best way to go about this, I hardly think it warrants a comparison of the Conservative party to the Nazis (and the implied reflection on their coalition partners)! As for the treaty rights point, couldn’t they still arrest her for working illegally- she wouldn’t have been entitled to work before the marriage on that hypothesis-?

      On the other hand, any sign of Mark Harper being prosecuted or proceeded against for employing an illegal immigrant?

  5. Julian, your ability to persuade, on either side of the fence is if nothing else consistent.

  6. Electing not to enforce our democratic laws appears to be the alternative hypothesis advanced, this is naive.

    The point re the Minister begin fined is a fair one, Baroness Scotland had to cough up, it was staggering that The Minister could not be bothered to check her status regularly, sauce for the goose and all that.

    The black shirt point is equally valid (the shirts are actually dark blue), Colin tends (as ever) to over egg his pudding, the clumsy and not that veiled allusion to the Third Reich is an example of this intemperate mindset, he is a living example of Godwin’s law (previous contributors to this blog and no doubt Collin’s fellow travelers have also previously made references to nuremberg also)

    The fact that this happened at a wedding was unfortunate, but she only had herself to blame. Julian might find it surprising that some people enter into bogus marriages in an attempt to secure status, all i can say is that I am surprised that he is surprised.

    There have been (its is sad to say) even some “Immigration Lawyers” who have been struck off and or prosecuted for their involvement in these kind of marriage scams, those who decided to break the law in this way should expect little sympathy when they are arrested.

    1. Blackshirts as in “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!”, infamous Daily Mail headline from 1934. They were British, not German. Unpleasant, violent, deluded, ultimately unsuccessful and famously stopped at Cable Street by a wave of popular resistance.

  7. Is there any evidence this was a bogus marriage? Was either the bride or groom arrested? So far reports have been only of arrest of the bride’s mother…

  8. I’ve no idea, i was referring to Julia’s comments about raiding bogus marriages generally, given that it was allowed to proceed, most likely not.

  9. PO has so far failed to persuade me that if it was possible to identify a major family social occasion at which a suspected overstayer would be present, that it would be beyond the wit of officialdom to work out where she lived / worked and go and arrest her there. Would this not also be safer for those conducting the arrest, who would not have to face down an angry family at an emotional time? Not to mention cheaper, as fewer UKBF needed, less traumatic for the detainee, and altogether more civilised.

    The only factor I can see which mitigates in favour of arresting her at her daughter’s wedding is for maximum publicity “pour encourager les autres.” That seems unBritish in the extreme.

    Perhaps she could be made to parade on public television with a sign round her neck for good measure?

  10. Julian, try facts rather than speculation (you can use this approach in submissions also if you like), she had absconded, she was not at her home address when visited by an enforcement team, the next thing the authorities heard about her was when it came to light that her daughter (who’s status also appears to be in question) was to marry, they rightly, lawfully and appropriately seized the opportunity to detain this high profile absconder.

    Given the evidence and in the circumstances, you alternate approach would have been what ?


  11. My preferred alternative would have been to do a little research and to visit again when she was at home. If the Met can work out when (often violent) suspects are at home, I’m sure that UKBF can. Or, if that really wasn’t possible, I would wait until after the wedding had taken place.

    By suggesting that UKBF were just stymied for an alternative you really don’t do them any favours. I’d rather believe them unpleasant than as incompetent as you seem to – although perhaps Hanlon’s Razor applies…

    1. Julian these Po’s like to go in, exercise their muscle, throw their weight around. Especially if they have someone at a disadvantage. How many to arrest one woman?
      It could have been done by two guys in plain clothes quietly and discreetly.
      But they like to charge in like US TV Swat teams because that’s how they get their rocks off!
      Yet their ‘brother’s in arms at the borders keep failing to keep the illegals out! Keeps them all in work! jack

  12. Hmm. Most of my caseload is people who don’t currently have permission to be here (at least when I first see them), but only a very small fraction of them entered illegally: the vast majority are overstayers. I find it difficult to blame overstaying on the border force: they had a valid visa when they entered the country…

    1. Philip are you slightly overlooking the fact that these ‘restrictions’ were brought in by Cameron and May from 2010 in order to reduce net immigration to keep Cameron’s pre-election pledge. So its pure political ideology aimed at boosting Tory votes in 2015.
      But the policy had failed because of the inflow of EEA nationals who the Tory led government cannot stop!
      So May targeted 17,800 plus British families and has destroyed their rights to a family life!
      Then compare this with the Tory open door policy to rich oligarchs. In todays Guardian is a report by Steve Richards who says -‘ the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has thrown a spotlight on the influence of Russian oligarchs. These Russians have been given easy entry to the UK to buy up what they please and who are willing to donate £160,000 to the Tory party to watch Cameron and Boris play tennis. Of course these Russians also bring a lot of business to lawyers estate agents & bankers!

  13. PO’s don’t arrest people, Border Force don’t carry out enforcements visits, if your going to criticise the immigration authorities you might take a moment to understand basic elements of our structure and how responsibilities are divided across various commands.

    Yes this government have claimed that they want to reduce net migration, this was a clumsy pledge, not thought through (particularly with reference to our obligations under international law)it is unsurprisingly not going to be delivered.

    The suggestion that the immigration officers (who work for Immigration Enforcement, not Border a Force) should have waited until after the ceremony ignores the fact that (it appersrs from what is said in the press) the registrar had reported the marriage as a suspicious one, had asked UKVI to attend and that the bride also had no permission to be in the UK ( if she obtains an EEA permit later that is another matter).

    In tems of Ms Acevedo, she had gone to ground, was no longer at her given address (hence returning to that address would be pointless) and the research undertaken led immigration officers to the registry office that day.

  14. Ah well, yes, I don’t care for the government’s immigration “policy”, if you can call it that. I’m just saying it isn’t the fault of the men who (specifically) watch our borders that some people inside the borders no longer have permission to be here- their colleagues in enforcement are an easier target but are over-stretched, under-resourced and insufficiently trained.

    1. PO and Phliip – yes I read your comments and I understand that there are many points of view.
      However this Government ( Cameron and May) have been in office now for four years.
      Cameron and May embarked on a immigration policy that was total flawed. Their policy has only emphasised the weaknesses of the system. A system that badly needs putting right before embarking on new unworkable policies.
      Especially the net immigration policy that has destroyed the family lives of 17,800 plus British families with ‘rules’ that were designed as ‘barriers to immigration and not to facilitate integration.
      You only have to read this site, MRN, and JCWI etc to see the draconian effect on British men women and children.
      May’s policy has been carried out with a ‘relish’ by all of Ms May’s / HO employees. Ms May has been handing out £10K annual bonuses for ‘incompetence and downright nasty application’ of her policies to those British families. Fathers with no wife, wives with no father forced to bring up their children on their own! Skype ‘mummies and daddies’ are now in placed. But not for Home Office / Government employees! Nor for EEA nationals which are the bilk of the immigrants entering the UK!
      This is allowed to flourish and there are very few voices speaking out.
      Yet May lets in £billionaire oligarchs of any background where they are fast tracked and given British passports, buy up property at exorbitant prices swelling the pockets of estate agents lawyers and bankers. Who advise them how to put their money in offshore funds and avoid UK tax.
      Is this your idea of an equitable just fair Britain – Are these British values – or is it the hypocracy of Cameron and May? jack

  15. If the question was addressed to me then, no, it is not my idea of an equitable just fair Britain and no these are not British values. I’ll avoid crying “hypocrisy”.
    There is an effective apartheid being established between those with status and those without, whereby those without status are denied jobs, houses and bank accounts, can be removed without notice, and pass on their second-class conditions to their children born in the UK, who are deemed not to be entitled to the education and healthcare which is their fellow UK natives’ birthright. It hasn’t yet got to the point where those children are actually excluded from our schools and hospitals, but already their parents are billed for their hospital treatment.

  16. PO the basis for ‘insufficiently trained’ has been published in the press / admitted by government that EOs are not adequately trained in all aspects of dealing with ‘people’.
    Which is why there has blunders like – handcuffing the only man at a wedding who did not speak English. Yet he had every right to be in the UK because he was a Romanian! Just one example. Because EOs just blundered in throwing their weight around! You have a public perception problem!
    We use the term ‘arrest’. You use your own terminology. But to us its ‘detain / arrest’ a suspect and it took 15 EOs and 5 POs to detain a mother at her daughters wedding.
    I worked in the real world of work where the use of correct adequate resources was paramount to efficiency. Where we had to be very aware of cost benefit analysis.
    In contrast you are funded by us the public out of our taxes and it is obvious you have no concern for the cost to the public! Your organisation is not only incompetent but inefficient!
    You answer to an autocrat government / Ms May. Your responses / lack of understanding indicates a closed mind . Almost facist!
    The public want democracy NOT autocracy. You will as well when the same / similiar problems land in your court. Like the PCS is now taking action over the passport office fiasco!

  17. Don’t you want more money allocated to you for training? There are the continuing stream of decisions involving children which fail to make any reference to Section 55, for example. Inevitably the judicial review unit agrees to reconsider these decisions, so it isn’t a policy issue.

    Immigration law is a complex area which is constantly changing and those who work in the are need to undergo continual training to keep up. On our side, the regulator mandates a certain amount of training: logic would indicate their should be at least as much training on your side.

    1. Sorry, of course strictly speaking the Section 55 point is not about enforcement- jack has some more relevant examples speaking to that.

  18. Philip my question was not aimed at you. I think we share the similar concerns about the respect for human rights for all. Which is now being denied in the UK by this government.
    Children banged up in detention centres. Women sexually abused by staff! An old man of 84 dying while handcuffed to a bed!
    We have Grayling wanting to water down human rights. We have Duncan Smith denying food banks, hitting the disabled and pensioners. How far are we removed from concentration camps?
    We have an NHS falling apart while the ‘rich’ have every facility they need. They deny the less well off the basic services, make them homeless and hurt the young children.
    Yet we have Russian Oligarchs come to Britain with £billions. They get an open door policy to buy property forcing up the prices which is making it so our young people cannot get their own home.
    I am a pensioner. I pay income tax so have no financial problems. But I see people who do!
    This government wants to take us back to the Dickensian era where the rich had their boots on the necks of the poor!

  19. I am disgusted with the whole establishment over the paedophile situation that is now coming to light.
    I mention it here because it is indicative of the cover up / self protection of politicians and deception of the public let alone the hypocracy that has gone on for years and still exists.
    Can we trust politicians and the establishment NO!
    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely! Curb power make all answerable for their individual actions. jack

  20. Interesting range of comments.

    PO – if UKVI was summoned because the registrar was suspicious how is it the focus of the arrest was Ms Acevedo? And if the bride had no permission to be in the UK surely the article would be about the ‘high profile absconder’ AND her daughter.

    On the insufficient training point:the system is such that every case is handled by no less than a) 2 people for an complex case b) 3 people for a denied application proceeding to appeal and c) 5 people for a case reaching the hearing stage. With such a system one can only conclude that its insufficient training that results in professionals/immigration officers failing to get it right the first time. Getting it right the first time in this context is not much to ask considering that applicants are expected to understand and comply with the system without the benefit of the training, support and experience that these officials have. If its not a case of insufficient training maybe its a case of misconduct and negligence. Keep in mind that this is a service for which a significant fee is charged and applicants have been complaining about the service for decades.

    Philip Thomas – the complexity of immigration law is to a great extent a result of inconsistent, incoherent and unjustified policies from the Home Office and ministry of justice. They have no one else to blame. A simple example is the issue of how to do an article 8 assessment. Strasbourg has a simple 2 step process but the UK felt the need for 5 steps which Theresa May felt need to add on to. Its only because that these are issues affecting immigrants that these exceptionally low standards are accepted.