Immigration

Government must address immigration quandary  

*  DNA empathetic but upholds rule of law

*  PM’s 2017 directive still fresh in Bahamians’ minds

*  Government’s position on immigration woes unclear

*  Mismanagement of relocation worsens dilemma

*  Hurricane Dorian not the same as 2010 Earthquake

 The Prime Minister and the Minister responsible for immigration have made numerous pronouncements on the fate of undocumented immigrants in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Many Bahamians vividly recall the directive issued by the Prime Minister almost two years ago on October 11, 2017 warning all illegal migrants that they have until December 31, 2017 to leave the country after which they will be “aggressively pursued and deported”. That directive proved to be nothing more than grandstanding and posturing as there were no new initiatives, actions or policy aimed at changing the existing protocols.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is concerned that despite the recent announcements, it remains unclear what the government intends to do to address an illegal migration problem that has festered under successive administrations. The current administration has failed to articulate a coherent and comprehensive immigration policy but has exacerbated an already bad state of affairs.  This Minnis-led administration has shown no true commitment toward addressing this generational issue that has impacted the very landscape of The Bahamas.

The DNA is empathetic to the plight of all those impacted by Hurricane Dorian and we continue to pray for them. While we appreciate that the magnitude of the disaster led the government toward leniency in the enforcement of immigration laws in the immediate aftermath of the storm, we believe that the government’s decision should have been balanced with a structured approach to the identification and recording of all undocumented migrants on Grand Bahama and Abaco.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, we have seen a mass exodus of inhabitants of the Abacos and Grand Bahama to New Providence with a few relocating to other family islands. The documentation process has been deficient, and it is difficult to determine undocumented migrants from the impacted islands from other undocumented migrants. While some are currently being housed in shelters, others have integrated and blended with the general population. In essence, the government has dropped the ball and the illegal migration problem has been compounded by poor management and a failure to plan.

 The government has suspended deportations in the impacted areas providing the Bahamian people with no timeline for a reinstatement of the policy. Some are citing the government’s policy position taken in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. The peculiar case of Hurricane Dorian must be distinguished from that event. Bahamians would recall that the FNM administration at the time made the controversial decision to release those detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre and offered temporary legal status to Haitians at the time. The decision in 2010 was unpopular in several quarters and revealed disagreements between the then Prime Minister, the Minister of Immigration and Minister of State for Immigration.  It should be clear that in this case (unlike the 2010 earthquake), islands of The Bahamas were the ones impacted by Hurricane Dorian and not the countries to which undocumented immigrants would have been deported to. To date, we are not aware of the current status of the individuals who benefitted from this amnesty.

We note that the Immigration Minister has indicated that undocumented migrants must apply for legal status to avoid deportation. He further indicated that persons with work permits tied to specific employers may seek employment elsewhere with their existing work permit and could not state when repatriations will commence for undocumented migrants from Grand Bahama and Abaco; many of whom are now in New Providence. 

Can the Minister explain to the Bahamian people how can an undocumented migrant who is in The Bahamas illegally apply for legal status? Will he also articulate how his Ministry intends to differentiate undocumented migrants from Hurricane Dorian impacted islands from other undocumented migrants in The Bahamas? Has the government carefully considered its decision to have unemployed work permit holders from Abaco and Grand Bahama join the unemployed labor force in New Providence and other islands? What impact does the government believe this will have on displacing Bahamians and increasing the unemployment rate? How will various government ministries including education, health, national security and social services adapt to the increase in population on New Providence? Does the government have a plan and timelines for its numerous announcements on immigration? The DNA submits that until the government can answer these questions, they should desist from pontification and uttering headline-seeking political rhetoric.

The Bahamas has always been empathetic toward the plight of economic migrants; however, the DNA is adamant that the rule of law must be upheld. Our government must govern in the best interest of the Bahamian people and not be complicit in compounding an issue that has served as a generational challenge. We call for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform which secures our borders, addresses loopholes in our laws and enforce stiff penalties for those who break our laws. The time for playing political football with this matter is over. This generation of Bahamians will not allow any administration governing today to continue the perpetuation of a cycle which continues to undermine the rule of law and present socio-economic challenges to the detriment and disadvantage of Bahamians.

Arinthia S. Komolafe

Leader

Democratic National Alliance

 

DNA on Immigration Policy

 

• No commitment to citizenship at birth

• Birthright citizenship is complex and controversial

• DNA to outline comprehensive platform for Immigration reform

• Upholding Constitution and national interest is DNA's priority

• No more political games or kicking can down the road

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) notes comments attributed to our former leader, Mr. Branville McCartney reported in the Tribune Newspaper (14th June 2019). As a former politician and private citizen, Mr. McCartney is entitled to his personal opinions and lends his voice to national issues from time to time. Additionally, as a former Cabinet Minister with responsibility for Immigration, Mr. McCartney also has some insights on this subject matter. 

While it is apparent that views espoused by Mr. McCartney do not constitute the official position of the DNA, we wish to provide further clarity in this regard. The DNA’s Vision 2017 and Beyond did not commit to the policy of citizenship at birth. The issue of citizenship by birth is complex and controversial with serious implications for the citizenry. It is not surprising therefore that only approximately 30 countries around the world have such a policy in place and some have reversed their national policies in this regard. It is common practice for nations that grant citizenship by birth to have established criteria for qualification as is currently the case in The Bahamas, rather than grant the same automatically at birth.

The DNA will comprehensively outline its platform and position on Immigration for consultation with the Bahamian people. The DNA will not kick this proverbial can down the road like the Free National Movement and Progressive Liberal Party have done for decades. We will not play political games with an issue that is so important to our nation for political expediency. Our position paper will articulate our immigration policy in a holistic manner.

We believe in the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Bahamians under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. We believe that there should be equity under the law and that all Bahamians, male or female, married or unmarried should have the unequivocal right to pass on citizenship to their children. This matter will be a priority among other things in our position paper.

Further, the long-standing issues surrounding illegal migration, shanty towns, issuance of work permits, interpretation of Article 7, residency and citizenship which have been inadequately addressed by successive administrations would also feature prominently in the said position paper. 

It is the intention of the DNA to have open and frank discussions with the Bahamian people with a view to implementing our policies upon assuming office as the next Government of The Bahamas.

 

Buscheme Armbrister

Deputy Leader, Democratic National Alliance