Today’s Editorial December 12: Christmas comes for overstayers

If you’re reading this and you know you’re in this country illegally you’d better get busy.

Illegal overstayers are being given a Christmas present of sorts for the next two weeks.

The Department of Immigration is giving amnesty to folks who have stayed past their welcome in the Cayman Islands.

So, no matter where you’re from, if you’re still reading this editorial you need to put it down and either call an airline carrier or a travel agent and make arrangements to leave this country immediately.

You won’t be hassled.

You won’t be fined.

You won’t be penalized.

You won’t be jailed.

You’ll be allowed to walk through the exit doors of the Own Roberts International Airport, board a plane and return home; just in time for Christmas.

The gift of freedom continues through 23 December.

After that day anyone caught overstaying in the Cayman Islands will be subject to pricey fines and possible jail time.

If you continue to thumb your nose at the law by remaining on the island once the amnesty offer is lifted and you’re caught, the punishment won’t be pleasant.

The maximum penalty for overstaying is a fine of CI$20,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

The gift of amnesty also applies to employers holding work permits for employees for whom they no longer have work and employees holding a valid work permit, but for whom employers no longer have full-time work.

The penalties for work permit offences range from fines between CI$5,000 and $15,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

Those are hefty fines and sentences. People who take advantage of the amnesty offer may be giving themselves the most expensive Christmas gift of their lives by keeping that hard-earned cash in their pockets.

Immigration Chief Franz Manderson and his staff are serious about getting those illegally staying in the Cayman Islands off of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

Right now they’re being generous and turning a blind eye to those breaking the law.

But watch out. Once the amnesty offer is over, the Immigration gloves are coming off.

Save yourself some money and misery. If you are here illegally, leave now.