Status law changed

A bill to put restraints on Cabinet being able to grant the right to be Caymanian was passed into law in the Legislative Assembly Thursday afternoon.

The legislation – the Immigration (Amendment) Law 2005 – restrains Cabinet from making a grant except where it is recommended by the Immigration Board and validated by the Legislative Assembly.

The number of grants would be limited to four in a calendar year.

It also requires visitors looking for employment to be away from the Islands between the period of submission of an application for a work permit and the determination of the application.

The law also enables a temporary work permit holder who applies for a one year work permit on the same terms and conditions to continue to work for the same employer after the expiration of the temporary permit while awaiting the outcome of the application.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said that due to the actions of the last government, the country had ended up with nearly 3,000 people being granted status in one fell swoop.

Because of the frenzied way in which the huge number of grants had been handled, it had taken away the ability of the Immigration Department to make proper checks, he said.

A huge number of people were granted status just by name on a piece of paper and only intermittent checks were done in other cases, he claimed.

The Immigration Department had control of a country’s borders and when you looked round the world today and saw what was happening, it was absolutely important to control those borders, Mr. Tibbetts told the House.

Earlier in the debate, MLA Alfonso Wright said the mass granting of status by the last government was a reckless and ill-conceived notion.

Cayman was known for welcoming people but some might say the country had opened its arms a little too wide, he said.

The granting of citizenship in a country of this size had to be done in sensible moderation, the George Town member added.

Minister Arden McLean said any citizenship that was bestowed should be considered a privilege.

Some of the people who received the grants of status were embarrassed, as much as they appreciated them, because they recognised it should not have been done in that way, he told the House.

MLA Osbourne Bodden said people who came here did not expect to have citizenship bestowed on them.

He also felt that some people were embarrassed and that they would have given the grants back if they could have.

There were reports of people receiving status who had never been here and who had criminal convictions, he said.

And yet there were still many people who should have got status over the years and had still not received it, he added.

Minister Charles Clifford said what had happened showed a reckless disregard for the implications and the country was embarrassed about it.

The number involved was equivalent to millions of people being allowed into the United States, he said.

After the House completed its business on Thursday afternoon it was adjourned until 8 August.