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.