Caymanians face losing control of their country to people not born here unless action is not taken on immigration.
That was the warning from Minister Alden McLaughlin in the House Monday evening.
He said that if Government does not act it will betray not just those who voted but for generations yet unborn.
The Immigration (Amendment) Bill passed after Chief Secretary George McCarthy said several issues were identified requiring urgent redress before more comprehensive amendments were put before the House in May.
He introduced legislation to create a new category of work permit for companies and businesses that were detrimentally affected by term limit provisions.
The legislation also covers issues relating to the composition of the Work Permit Board, the Business Staffing Plan Board and the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board and appeals in relation to term limits, he said.
Mr. McCarthy said there are several work permit grant or renewal applications in the immigration system that will be rejected shortly on grounds the boards do not have the power to deal with them, due to the expiry of the person’s term limits.
This could mean an employer losing several sometimes essential employees on short notice, he said.
To help, a temporary measure was introduced so employers can apply for a new Fixed Term Work Permit, he said.
Under that permit the employee can continue working for no more than nine months.
‘This facility is solely to give the employer time to recruit a suitable replacement employee and the period of validity of the Fixed Term Work Permit will not count in the employee’s favour with regard to qualifying for any right to apply for permanent residence,’ said Mr. McCarthy.
An employer will be required to show the employee is essential, he said.
The permit is non-renewable or non-extendable and the fee will be equivalent to the fee payable for a one year permit, plus an application fee of $100.
The Fixed Term Work Permit measure ends 31 December.
‘This date would allow for such permits to remain in force until 30 September 2007 or 18 months approximately from now,’ Mr. McCarthy said.
‘It is the government’s view that this is ample time for an employer to recruit a suitable replacement and stabilise their business,’ he said.
Referring to the present figure of 22,000 work permits, Minister McLaughlin said the choice was stark.
Government had to decide whether it was prepared to let the growth of the non-Caymanian element of the population continue to outstrip the growth of the Caymanian sector.
Government cannot allow people to stay here, build their lives and put down roots and then 10 or more years later tell them they have to go.
There are human rights considerations people are not allowed to remain indefinitely and not offer them security of tenure and in some cases the right to vote, he said.
The Government is not prepared to throw its hands up and say that whoever comes here can stay indefinitely.
He said he was not prepared to look the children of Cayman in the eye and say he was part of an establishment that gave away their right to be in control of their own country.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said if business is not encouraged, Cayman could end up like other places. But if local people are not protected there will be social problems down the road.
Places with small populations cannot accept everyone. There will be government funding and infrastructural problems, he said.
He said the Opposition supports the measures because it believes the Government is trying to remedy the situation.
MLA Osbourne Bodden said a country the size of Cayman cannot continue to absorb people indefinitely and have its own people prosper.
A lot of people come here with no experience in offshore financial work and excelled because they are given an opportunity, he said.
When Cayman’s own people get the same opportunities they prove they are as good as anyone else, he said.
MLA Alfonso Wright said there is a culture in the business community where the majority of human resource managers are expatriates on work permits and their trend is to employ people from their own countries, he said.
MLA Rolston Anglin said firms need to make it their business to understand the law and to start planning and make sure they are structuring their employees.
The country has a crisis when it comes to the marginalisation of Caymanians, he said.
Mr. McCarthy said the legislation minimises the potential for resentment in the job market, maintains social harmony and ensures that Caymanians share in the economic pie.
The House was adjourned until 15 March.