Today’s Editorial: Cayman right to repatriate

The Cayman Islands Government finds itself with more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe today.

Illegal Cuban immigrants were taken to Grand Cayman in the early morning hours Wednesday where the 29 are being detained for breaking this country’s immigration laws.

The Cubans will be repatriated to Cuba, based on the 1999 Memorandum of Understanding between the Cayman Islands and Cuba.

While many in the Cayman Islands complain about the repatriation of Cubans to the country they are fleeing, the Government is acting in good faith and, in the end, protecting this country.

The attitude toward illegal immigrants coming to the Cayman Islands was lax in the 1960s, 1970s and 1908s. Before, it was not unusual for the people in the communities where these immigrants landed to take the illegals into their homes and care for them.

The turning point came in the 1990s when more than 1,200 Cubans ended up in the Cayman Islands.

That one event cost the Cayman Islands Government more than $6 million – money that had not been budgeted, but which had to be spent. It was only when the United States stepped in to allow the Cubans to be transferred to Guantanamo Bay that the situation ended.

That entire incident gave rise to the 1999 MOU.

Under the agreement the Cayman Islands Government notifies the Cuban government when Cuban migrants arrive here illegally. On Cuba’s end, they investigate to make sure the migrants are indeed Cubans. The Cayman Islands Government bears all the expense of housing and repatriating the Cubans.

There is evidence that once repatriated, the Cubans aren’t persecuted or jailed; many of those repatriated return to Cayman illegally many times in just a few short months from the repatriation.

Cayman Islands officials have also said they would never enter into an MOU with any country that they know would persecute repatriates.

There is, after all, a difference between persecution and prosecution. It is expected that anyone who leaves a country illegally – especially in a stolen vessel – would be prosecuted. It would happen in Cayman and should be expected in Cuba.

Persecution of anyone, though, is wrong.