West Bay MLAs want nannies exempted from rollover

Specialist caregivers who serve elderly, sick or disabled Cayman Islands citizens should be given an exemption from Cayman’s current nine-year term limit on foreign workers’ residence, West Bay lawmakers said in a motion filed with the Legislative Assembly.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush filed a private members motion Friday, seconded by West Bay MLA Bernie Bush, seeking to reinstate the “specialist caregiver” provision that existed in Cayman Islands Immigration Law prior to changes implemented in October by the Progressives-led government.

McKeeva Bush’s motion asks government to reintroduce the specialist caregivers “or a similar provision giving the same possibility for our senior citizens who need such constant care to have the caregiver they have been acquainted with for some years.”

“The provision was put in the law to help our senior citizens who are in need of those care givers,” Mr. Bush said Friday. “They don’t adjust well to new faces or a new routine. They are very difficult to handle and it’s best when they are satisfied with someone to leave that person in place.

“It was wrong for the government to take it out and I hope they will accept my motion to put it back in place. The whole immigration regime is nonsensical and every time the PPM [People’s Progressive Movement] messes with it, it does untold damage to business, ordinary people’s lives and the country as a whole.”

The caregivers provision passed during the tenure of Mr. Bush’s former United Democratic Party government applied only to non-Caymanian caregivers who nursed sick, elderly or disabled people; not all domestic helpers were included in the rollover exemption.

Under the earlier law, the domestics could only stay beyond the then-seven year limit on residence if their employers obtained a certificate from either the Work Permit Board or chief immigration officer that allowed those helpers to remain up to five more years.

Without the special certificate, caregivers did not obtain key employee or permanent resident status would have been forced to leave Cayman after seven years of continuous residence here, under the old Immigration Law. That previous seven year term limit – now nine years – 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 inability to apply to obtain some type of permanent immigration status for individuals that stay in Cayman for 10 years or more was a concern of both George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin – who is now the premier – and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller.

“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,” Mr. Miller said during his portion of the debate on the specialist caregivers bill in 2010.

Mr. McLaughlin has noted many times in the past that prior to the implementation of Cayman’s initial term limit policy – on Jan. 1, 2004 – a number of foreign residents had lived in the Cayman 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 10 years without some form of security of tenure.

At the same time, Mr. McLaughlin said members of the then-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 during the 2010 parliamentary debate.