The Cayman Islands is a tolerant society that welcomes immigrants from every country, including Jamaica, Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford said during his contribution to the Immigration (Amendment) (No.2) Bill on Monday.
Mr. Clifford said the debate on the Immigration Bill should be about calming the country and that it was too important to play politics with the issue.
Although he admitted that some people would advise him not to comment on such issues, Mr. Clifford took offence to some of the things being said about Jamaicans.
‘It has gone on too long and with too many distortions. I need to set the record straight.’ he said.
‘Much has been said by irresponsible individuals and print media, which suggest that Caymanians don’t want Jamaicans in their country or don’t want this and that nationality in their country,’ Mr. Clifford continued. ‘Madam Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth.’
Mr. Clifford said such attitudes were irresponsible and reckless.
‘It has the potential to create social disharmony, encourage hate crimes and ultimately undermine our reputation as a safe, tolerant and welcoming society.
‘I strongly suggest that the public frown upon any politician or media house which encourages such distortions of the truth in an attempt to gain votes or sell newspapers.’
Mr. Clifford said the Government understood that people were one of the key components of the economy and that it required more labour than the indigenous population could supply in the foreseeable future.
‘Therefore, we have to import labour,’ he said. ‘It is common sense for a country in this position to have policies in place which ensure that you have a good mix of nationalities in your expatriate work force and that no one nationality is allowed to dominate.’
‘That, Madam Speaker, is just prudent policy and good governance,’ Mr. Clifford added. ‘To take such a sensible policy position and spin that into an allegation that Caymanians don’t like Jamaicans is reckless and provocative.’
Mr. Clifford said Jamaica was inextricably linked by geography; by history; by family connections; and by common regional interests.
‘The Governments of Cayman and Jamaica know this and the people of our two countries know this too and I am confident that our people and the Jamaican people will not be misled by reckless opportunist politicians.’
Mr. Clifford said the majority of Caymanian and non-Caymanian residents understood that the Government welcomed all immigrants and visitors to the country.
‘But this can only be allowed within the context of a sensible immigration regime just as it is in most other countries.’
Mr. Clifford said most countries have sensible immigration policies that only allow immigrant works to stay for a certain length of time unless they can obtain some sort of security of tenure like permanent residence.
‘So why is it that some foreign workers in this country see this as a harsh policy when they are well aware that we couldn’t come to their country and stay indefinitely without security of tenure?’
Mr. Clifford said the Immigration Amendment Bill before the House would deliver on the dual responsibilities of protecting and facilitating commerce while at the same time protecting Caymanians by ensuring all Caymanians were able to benefit from Cayman’s robust economy.