2006 will probably be most remembered as the year of the rollover policy.
Even though the law, which introduced the provision of term-limits came into effect 1 January, 2004, it was not until 2006 that its implications were felt on a substantial basis, and that it seemed to be understood.
The ruling People’s Progressive Movement made it clear from early on that although it was conducting a thorough review of the Immigration Law, it was not considering abandoning the rollover policy, which requires all expatriate workers to leave the islands after seven years unless they are given key employee status, in which case they can stay nine years, long enough to apply for permanent residency after eight years.
The government’s pronouncement that the rollover policy was here to stay antagonised some businesspeople in the community, and at least one media outlet, which ran editorial after editorial slamming the government for its refusal to back away from its decision.
In the fall, a group of anonymous businessmen under the acronym SCARED placed two-week advertising campaigns in both daily newspapers outlining what it thought the ominous outcome of continuing with the rollover policy would be.
After that, Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin began regularly berating Cayman Net News for its editorial stance on the rollover party, culminating in his repeated reference to the newspaper, some of its columnists and supporters as ‘the constituency of darkness’.
The rollover policy issue also started affecting the usually calm relationship between Caymanians and expatriate residents. As the rift became more noticeable, Mr. McLaughlin publicly acknowledged that many Caymanians resented expatriates for making them feel overwhelmed in their own country.
In a Chamber of Commerce organised forum on the Immigration Law in October, Work Permit Board Chairman David Ritch put a face on the alleged threat facing Cayman by citing statistics of the number of Jamaican work permit holders in the country, and extrapolating what would happen if all of these people were allowed to stay in the country long enough to get Caymanian citizenship, which would allow their dependents to get citizenship as well.
The Government finished its initial review of the Immigration Law in September and released a white paper Bill to the public for a one-month consultation period.
After some redrafting and changing of the bill, it was circulated to Members of the Legislative Assembly on 7 December. Unable to wait the entire 21 days required by Standing Orders to debate the Bill, the Government suspended Standing Orders, debated the Bill and passed it on 20 December.
Although the PPM Government backed away from some of its proposed amendments and compromised on some others, it did not sway in its stance on the rollover policy.