Doing the ‘TLEP Schlep’: Here today, gone tomorrow …

For the last two days, 1,500 working members of the Cayman Islands community, instead of being at their jobs, have found themselves enmeshed in an administrative process involving paperwork, checkbooks and long slow-moving lines. (A few of the wiser ones brought umbrellas to protect themselves outside the Immigration Building against the noon-day sun or the nearly daily downpours that have been drenching Cayman.)

True, the Term Limit Exemption Permit holders’ (“TLEPers”) permits technically expired Oct. 28, but if the government were able to extend the time period for one additional day, why not for a week to avoid the self-inflicted urgency?

Five months after assuming power, the ruling Progressives government last Thursday passed a sweeping overhaul of our country’s Immigration Law, giving the “TLEPers” just two working days to get their passports stamped (and in some instances, pay government a $100-plus fee) in exchange for another 45 days of residential uncertainty in the Cayman Islands.

In what appears to be a rush to passage and implementation of the bill, one wonders whether a properly deliberative process on this most important issue has ever taken place. Few Caymanians, work permit holders and elected members appear satisfied with the final legislative product which was passed by a 10 to 3 vote – at 2 o’clock in the morning!

Please understand that we are not at this moment commenting on the content of the bill — we’ll have more to say about that in due course — but for now we are concerned about the process which imposed such a tight deadline on resolving an issue so important that it will influence, if not determine, the future of these islands forever. It’s been said, with some merit, that a country is its immigration policy. In other words, demographics are destiny.

Further, we must point out that, too often, the “TLEPers” appear to be treated with disdain — or, in some instances, even contempt (just listen to talk radio). We would remind those who do so that these are among the most trusted and tested employees in the Cayman Islands. Every one of them has been here for eight years and passed the “test of time” with their employers.

In the lead-up to today’s long lines, they have been on a yo-yo string of uncertainty — “you have to leave the island by Oct. 28.” “Forget that. You can stay for another 45 days. Etc., etc. …”

The bar for permanent residence in the new legislation is so high that very few of the TLEPers in line today (or anyone else) are likely to be granted that status, and that new reality is already having under-analyzed consequences. The real estate industry, for example, is reporting the cancellation of some transactions that were close to closing. After all, why would anyone not certain of his or her residential status consider purchasing a home or property?

We do not fault the sitting government for attempting to sort out Cayman’s seemingly intractable (and eternal) immigration issues in a timely manner.

However, legislators were clearly faced with an issue that demanded thorough analysis and thoughtful contemplation over politics and expediency. Instead of a well-crafted, forward-thinking bill, we must now deal with compromise legislation that may inhibit the growth of Cayman’s economy for years to come.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Everyone was hoping to be here for the rest of their lives. No one thought that they could go home. I’m sure there were a lot of people prepared. Maybe they thought if they pleased their boss no problem.
    But lets pretend that everyone got to stay even the domestics.They all got PR then they got Cayman status. Tomorrow morning they would be added to the people unemployed. They would be the unqualified qualified simply because they had crossed over to the other line. The line that has lost its rights one night while we have been sleeping. Because we thought everyone had a history and culture like us.
    Sorry they don’t. They got rich and they thought they had all the power. Well not today bobo.
    What makes you people think that Maria,Bobby etc etc is going to stay working for you unless you pay reasonable salaries? They got status now they going to change jobs and open up their own business and abuse their common laborers and create the new crime wave . Lets’ not ever forget that this is whats causing the crime. NO HOPE.

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  2. There are some important issue going on here, one is the stupid policy that caused this in the first place. Instead of granting a two extension when the seven years were complete the government of the day said they only get an extension up 28 October 2013. So everyone expired on the same day no matter if you had 2 year extension or a 2 month extension. So now we extended to 9 December for the same thing to happen.

    So why is this critical because most of these people are the low income workers and employers who have these workers are going face two issues – one replace a batch of workers with a new batch of untested workers and two pay out a huge redundancy payment for returning workers, which probably will add to the unemployment figures plus their customers will lose their gardener, pool guys, care givers, construction workers, etc all at the same time – Cayman is going to be a fun place in 2014.

    At the same time it will be a test for the current employed to get a new job and stick with it for if they can then just like the people they replaced they will have employment for the next seven years. However if the unemployed do not apply until they get a job then they should have their social security payments removed. Just think about this for one moment there are 20,000 work permits therefore the majority of these jobs are available every year for the unemployed to apply for that is 6 jobs available for every unemployed person to apply for.

    If the government bodies work together then by this time next year only the ones you don’t want to work will be without a job and the rest of the population will be fully employed. Employers must give the unemployed a chance and the unemployed must realise that they have been given a chance and work hard to thank the employer for giving that chance. If this happens then this Country will be on the first step to recovery.

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