Immigration Bill nears

The Government will present the Bill to amend the Immigration Law in the Legislative Assembly before the end of the year.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts told the House on Wednesday the Bill needed to be dealt with before 2007.

‘In order to not put any residents at risk, [the Immigration Amendment Bill] has to be enacted by 31 December, 2006,’ he said.

In a subsequent interview, Mr. Tibbetts explained that many individual only got their work permits through 31 December 2006 with the idea the amended law would be passed and new provisions contained in it would give them the opportunity to apply for permanent residence.

Eligible people who have applied for permanent residence are allowed to remain and work in the Cayman Islands while their application is pending.

Although the amended bill was circulated to Members of the Legislative Assembly Wednesday, it remains unclear when the Bill will actually be tabled in the House.

Standing orders require members receive bills at least 21 days before they appear on a Legislative Assembly Order Paper to allow them time to study the bill before debate.

‘[The 21 days] puts us to the 28th of December if we do not seek to suspend standing orders to allow us to put [the Bill] on the Order Paper earlier,’ Mr. Tibbetts said in the House Wednesday.

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush questioned why the Government did not just suspend standing orders and deal with the Bill earlier.

‘We don’t have enough votes to stop anything,’ he said.

Mr. Tibbetts said he had given Mr. Bush the choice of waiting until the 28th of December or of agreeing with the suspension of standing orders.

‘We would not wish to disenfranchise anyone by suspending standing orders, but we could easily do it by consensus if there was consent to do so.’

Mr. Tibbetts said Mr. Bush had decided to ‘leave it the way it was’ meaning the bill apparently will not be laid in the House until 28 December.

Therefore, unless Mr. Bush and the Opposition consents to the suspension of standing orders, the House will only have two days – Thursday 28 December and Friday 29 December – to deal with the bill before the weekend ends the year.

Mr. Tibbetts warned members that the task would be difficult.

‘We have to be prepared to work very late,’ he said, adding that in addition to debate on the bill, there were also administrative matters linked to the bill that would need to be attended to.

Mr. Tibbetts said there were no remaining difficulties with the bill and that it was ready to be tabled in the house.

Although, Mr. Tibbetts declined to specify what changes had been made to the bill based on the public consultation, he said he would get into that subject during Friday’s Cabinet press briefing.

Hoping that Mr. Bush and the Opposition might yet consent to the suspension of standing orders, Mr. Tibbetts wanted to adjourn the meeting of Legislative Assembly until 28 December with understanding it could resume earlier if that consent was received.

Speaker of the House Edna Moyle said she did not have the legal authority to specify a date for adjournment and then change that date to an earlier one.

Mr. Tibbetts then gave a motion to adjourn sine die, with the date for resumption undetermined.

Mr. Bush and called the Government’s handling of the issue absolutely ridiculous.

‘It’s too important a document to rush,’ he said. ‘It should not be rushed, and that’s what’s happening.’