Bill would require fingerprints of permit holders

Several major pieces of legislation are expected to be considered in the current meeting of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly including revisions to the Immigration Law, the introduction of anti-smoking legislation, and a proposal that would create Cayman’s first independent police review committee.

An outline of the proposed changes to the Immigration Law (2007 Revision) were released on Friday. They include an amendment that would allow the Chief Immigration Officer and his staff to assume much of the work now handled by various immigration-related boards.

The general idea is to let immigration staff handle routine matters such as work permit renewals and non-controversial permit applications, saving the more complex, contentious cases for the Work Permit Board and Business Staffing Plan Board.

The bill seeks to create a special eight-month work permit specifically for seasonal hospitality industry workers.

It also inserts a clause into Immigration Law that would require foreign workers to give written consent to being fingerprinted and to have those prints electronically recorded as a condition of either a permit grant or renewal of a work permit.

This last proposal, which is likely to cause a stir in the migrant worker community, is actually not new. The Chamber of Commerce requested something similar about three years ago when it pushed for the introduction of a national identification system mandating fingerprints for work permit ID cards and driver’s licences.

The Chamber’s proposal in 2005 was made following a sharp rise in crime, particularly on Grand Cayman, in the months following Hurricane Ivan.

Another long-awaited, major legislative proposal would adopt anti-smoking laws for Caymanian businesses including bars and restaurants.

Health Minister Anthony Eden has previously acknowledged that the revised Tobacco Bill is not as comprehensive as the one first proposed and reviewed by the public, but he has insisted that the bill will not compromise its general aim to provide a healthy environment for both workers and patrons.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said last week the proposed legislation received the approval of Cabinet, clearing the way for a Legislative Assembly vote.

LA members may also review changes to the Police Law, which creates a three-person committee called the Police Public Complaints Authority to review claims made against Royal Cayman Islands Police officers.

The proposal gives authority members essentially the same investigative powers as police officers, although police officers and former officers who have left the service within the past seven years cannot be appointed to serve on the authority.

Legislative Assembly members, as well as those who have been members and candidates for election within seven years of their prospective appointment are also not eligible.

The Cayman Islands Governor is responsible for appointing the three authority members, including the chairman. Those members will also be assisted by a staff, the potential size and cost of which was not set out in the Police Bill (2008 Revision).

The authority, as proposed, would have no direct power to discipline police officers. Any findings and recommendations it makes on specific cases would be forwarded to the police commissioner for review. Also, any evidence of criminal wrong-doing uncovered during a review must be passed to the Attorney General, according to the bill.

The National Conservation Bill, which was proposed as a discussion paper last year, has still not been brought before the LA. The bill provides a legal framework to regulate various environmental matters in the Cayman Islands

Environment Minister Charles Clifford did not state whether the bill would be coming before the house for a vote in the current meeting.

‘It should be going back to caucus sometime (this) week for final approval, before it goes to Cabinet for approval and then to the Legislative Assembly,’ Mr. Clifford said.

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