Mum feels forced to leave children

Sisi Cifuentes.
Sisi Cifuentes.
A Wanaka woman facing deportation from New Zealand without her three children, despite still being legally married to a New Zealander, says she has exhausted every avenue in her bid to stay in the country.

Next week, Nicaraguan Sisi Cifuentes (43) will fly to the United States - where she has residency - to avoid being deported and possibly prohibited from re-entering New Zealand.

Her visitor's visa expires on Thursday, and after battling for months to retain her immigration status and stay with her children, aged 13, 12 and 6, she is now faced with leaving them behind, with their New Zealand father, with whom she has shared custody.

Ms Cifuentes separated from her husband - former international model Peter Nolet - about 18 months ago. The couple met overseas, married, and travelled together for several years before settling near Lake Hawea, in 2006, she said.

They had two children together while living in the United States, and their third was born after they moved to New Zealand. The paperwork necessary for Ms Cifuentes to become a New Zealand resident was not completed during the couple's marriage.

She was on a partnership work visa, which was renewed every two years. Since the separation, she was not permitted to work because she no longer had partnership status and for the past eight months, had been here on a visitor's visa only, she said.

After having an application for another work visa turned down, she enlisted the help of Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean.

Mrs Dean said she had been working directly with the Associate Minister of Immigration's office to seek an exemption for Ms Cifuentes. Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye has the responsibility of reviewing individual cases and overruling earlier decisions. She was still considering Ms Cifuentes' case, and had requested further information, a spokeswoman from her office said.

But Ms Cifuentes said she was tired of fighting with only limited resources to stay in New Zealand.

''I've been doing this for two years ... I'm done.

''There comes a time when you have to stop the battle.''

She was now resigned to leaving and focused on finding a way to take her children with her, as she said she did not have Mr Nolet's consent to do so.

She planned to make a court application for the removal of the children from New Zealand.

Blenheim lawyer Graham Hill, who has been working pro bono on Ms Cifuentes case, described it as a ''tragic situation''.

''I'm appalled that a family could be busted up like this because of immigration,'' he said.

''In terms of the immigration policy, there is a gap, a hole in the policy. It doesn't recognise the interests of New Zealand children to have their mother with them, which is a fundamental human right ... therefore, the minister should exercise her discretion to give Sisi status.''

Despite Ms Cifuentes' prolonged efforts to stay in New Zealand, her lack of income made leaving inevitable, Mr Hill said.

''As soon as she left the matrimonial home, her status changed. She wasn't eligible to work and she's on a visitor's permit, so she wasn't entitled to a benefit.''

Ms Cifuentes had depleted her resources to the point where leaving was the preferable option, Mr Hill said.

An Immigration New Zealand spokesman said it was not possible for foreign nationals to apply for residence in cases where a partnership had broken down and the couple were no longer living together.

The Otago Daily Times has been unable to contact Mr Nolet, despite repeated attempts over several days.

Immigration exemption has to be considered

I hope the Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye reviews this case compassionately, I know Sisi is a well respected and regarded member of the Wanaka community and is considered to be a great Mum to her three children. It will be heart breaking and madness if she has to leave New Zealand.... this is her home and the home of her children. An exemption must be applied to this case!

Mum separated from her children

I am appalled at the New Zealand's government actions regarding this family. As if there weren't enough children who because of circumstances beyond their control are forced to grow up without their mother, now this government is playing GOD by forcing these children to suffer the unbearable separation from the most important person in their lives, their mother. Where are their rights?? How is it possible that the government cannot find a loophole in the law that can help these children and their mother. If there is anybody out there with the means/power to do something for this family please act now! Just think this could be you or one of your kids. 

There is no replacement for a mother

There is no replacement for a mother. It is unbelievable that loop holes in new zealand law; there is no way to keep her with her children. There needs to be involvement of the Nicaraguan government or United States government. Two of her children are US citizens. Not even third world countries would allow a mother to be separated from her children this is absolutely outrageous this is occurring in New Zealand. My thoughts and prayers to the mum and her children.

Please help spread the word

Please help spread the word so a mother can get back to her children! children need their mother and their father! the destruction of a family is the destruction of all of its members! sad to see that paperwork stands in the middle.

Mum feels forced to leave children

This case should not be decided at a bureaucratic level.  The deciding factors in this case should be compassion, common sense, and above all, the best interests of the children.  The idea of taking the children's best interests in mind is not only the right way to deal with custody cases, but also a guiding doctrine in determining issues relating to the well-being of children.  Would Sisi's deportation be detrimental to her children? Yes.  Would they be able to see their mother? No.  Do not let these kids lose contact with their mum.  It's not right.


How is posible that in New Zeland - a progressive nation with high standards of living and education - human rights for a family is a non-existing subject?

Some kind of crazy

What is happening in our country.  When did these bureaucrats become so cruel?  How have we as decent people lost our regard for humanity?

Outrageous behaviour from the national government who are bent on destroying the family nucleus.