Lawmakers wonder if nannies bill will hold up

Both opposition and
independent lawmakers have questioned whether a plan to exempt certain domestic
helpers from Cayman’s so-called rollover policy would stand up to legal tests.

The Legislative Assembly
was expected to pass a proposal that would let foreign-born caregivers who nurse
sick, elderly or handicapped residents stay in the Cayman
Islands beyond the expiration of their final work permits. The
domestics can only do so if their employers obtained a certificate from either
the Work Permit Board or chief immigration officer that allowed helpers to
remain up to five more years. That extension only applies as long as they
remained with the same employer.

Premier McKeeva Bush said
the proposal was needed to ensure the provision of the best possible care and
comfort for the country’s most vulnerable residents.

“Not only have (these
domestic helpers) become particularly attuned to the needs of that person, but
the person being cared for has often formed a close bond with that helper,” Mr.
Bush told the Legislative Assembly during Wednesday’s debate. “We cannot be so
inflexible as to enforce this policy (referring to the rollover) to the
detriment of those who are vulnerable in our community.”

Without the special
certificate, caregivers who do not obtain key employee or permanent resident
status are forced to leave Cayman after seven years of continuous residence
here. That seven year term limit applies to all foreign workers in the
Cayman Islands who do not work for government
or who are not married to a Caymanian.  

Mr. Bush pointed
out that the certificate – known as the Certificate of Specialist Caregivers –
would not allow the domestics who hold it to apply for permanent residence under
Cayman’s Immigration Law.

That could be the
problem.

“I believe it may be
difficult for immigration and the government to deny someone who has been able
to work here for 17 years any rights,” said North Side MLA Ezzard Miller during
his portion of the debate, adding that he counted seven years for the typical
term limit policy plus five years for the initial certificate for caregivers and
another five years for a certificate renewal.

Opposition MLA Alden
McLaughlin noted that before the implementation of Cayman’s initial term limit
policy – in 1 January, 2004 – a number of foreign residents had lived in the
Islands for 10, 20, 25 and in some rare cases
close to 30 years without citizenship rights or any security of tenure. Mr.
McLaughlin said he believed various international human rights conventions, as
well as Cayman’s new Bill of Rights, might prevent that same situation from
occurring with domestic helpers who hold the extended certificates.

He noted that the
previous Immigration Review Team noted in 2003 that it was “socially
undesirable” and “morally unacceptable” to allow individuals to stay in Cayman
for longer than ten years without some form of security of tenure.

At the same time, Mr.
McLaughlin said members of the opposition party were sympathetic to the
situation where “key people that we know are caught by coming to the end of
their term limits”.

“You rarely see an
employer happy about the prospect of losing a good employee,” he said.

Debate on the proposal
continued Wednesday afternoon. Late in the day, the proposal passed a crucial second reading by majority vote and appeared to be on its way to final approval.

The
bill

Under the provisions of the
Immigration (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2010, a caregiver would have to be
employed as a nurse, nanny or in another care-giving capacity for at least
three years prior to their employer making an application for a Certificate of
Specialist Caregivers. The caregiver would also have to demonstrate that he or
she is in good health.

A fee would be payable upon
successful application for the caregivers certificate, according to the bill.

The certificate can be
renewed at the option of the person’s employer, but that application for
renewal would not be successful if the caregiver ceases to work for their
current employer; or if the person being cared for dies, ceases to be sick or
ceases to be handicapped. The Work Permit Board or Chief Immigration Officer
would also have some discretion in awarding a certificate renewal.

If an application for renewal
of the Certificate of Specialist Caregivers is not successful and is not
appealed, the caregiver would have to leave the Islands
for at least a year – as is standard for all foreign workers whose work permits
have expired.

 

 

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