Cuban amnesty will solve uncertainty

Cuban-Caymanians that have been living in Cayman long-term with an uncertain immigration status will be given a path to citizenship as part of an amnesty announced by Government Wednesday.

The amnesty will mostly affect Cubans with Caymanian heritage that arrived here in the mid 1990s at the invitation of the then Executive Council (now called Cabinet).

While many were granted Permanent Residency in the years that followed, some didn’t make the necessary applications and have since been unable to pass the new point-based PR system, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts explained.

‘What we find now is that we have these people who, with the [2006 Immigration Law] in force, do not need a work permit but have no travel documents and their immigration situation is not regularised,’ he said.

Under the move, Cabinet will make a temporary change to immigration regulations that will give the long-term Cuban residents additional PR points to ensure they pass the 100-point PR threshold.

‘[It] will give them automatically … more than 100 points so they can pass the test and become permanent residents,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Members of the group will then be able to apply for Caymanian Status, provided they have been living here for 15 years.

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush, who has been lobbying for a change to the situation, said he knows of between 30 and 40 Cubans that have been denied PR under the points based system, although he said there could be more who have never applied.

‘It’s good as long as it’s not another stop-gap measure,’ he said following the announcement. ‘But is has to put these people in a permanent immigration situation that allows them to work and change jobs if necessary.’

Mr. Bush, who was a member of the Executive Council that invited the group back to Cayman in 1994, said 200 to 300 took up the offer at the time.

The amnesty proposal comes after Mr. Bush raised the issue with Immigration Chief Franz Manderson during a Finance Committee meeting in July and followed it up with a Private Members Motion in September.

‘Since the 1990’s they have lived among us…this is their home,’ Mr. Bush said during that debate. ‘Their children know no other home than the Cayman Islands.’

Government members gave their support to the motion, with government backbencher Osbourne Bodden declaring ‘these are our people.’

Speaking Wednesday, Mr. Tibbetts did not state when the amnesty will come into effect, but added: ‘This will be for a finite period and that will sort them out.’