The woman, Birdy Evadney Blake Morrison, has filed for judicial review of the case, which is steeped in the history of the territory’s Immigration Law and could turn into a human rights issue for the courts, depending on whether her request for judicial review is accepted by the Grand Court.
“The applicant [referring to Mrs. Blake Morrison] has now been resident in the Cayman Island[s] for almost 20 years without a break in stay,” the application for judicial review states. “The decisions were unreasonable and in breach of the rules of natural justice …”
Essentially, Mrs. Blake Morrison’s argument is not that she should be allowed to remain on island as a permanent resident. Rather, her judicial review application sets out that her application and denial of permanent resident status, including the appeals process, was carried out entirely under the territory’s previous iteration of the Immigration Law and, therefore, she should be given more time to set her affairs in order.
Her appeal to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal was denied on Oct. 17, 2013, according to the judicial review filing. The latest amendments to the Immigration Law were approved and took effect later in the same month.
The key issue regarding Mrs. Blake Morrison’s case is that, at the time her matters were considered, unsuccessful applicants for permanent residence were all given an automatic one year non-renewable work permit allowing them to make arrangements prior to leaving Cayman. The amendments to the Immigration Law approved in October provide only 90 days for that process.
According to court records, a decision of the chief immigration officer dated Feb. 17, 2014, granted Mrs. Blake Morrison a final work permit of three months.
“The decisions were wrong in law in that they deprive the applicants [Mrs. Blake Morrison and her employer, Sherri Bodden Cowan] of the right to a final 12 month work permit …,” the judicial review application states.
Mrs. Bodden Cowan declined to be interviewed for this story but acknowledged that her law firm, Bodden and Bodden, was acting on behalf of Mrs. Blake Morrison.
There was also a question raised about how Mrs. Blake Morrison, a work permit holder, was allowed to stay in Cayman legally for more than 20 years.
When the Cayman Islands Immigration Law was first changed to allow for what was known as the “rollover” policy in 2004, a requirement that all non-Caymanian residents leave the jurisdiction after seven continuous years of residence, a number of individuals who had lived in the country for at least five years were allowed to apply for permanent residence, the right to stay in Cayman for the rest of their lives.
Mrs. Blake Morrison made such an application in 2006. The initial application was denied at some point in the process and that denial was appealed to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, which eventually heard the case in October 2013.
Mrs. Bodden Cowan, who has been involved extensively in Cayman’s immigration process over the past two decades, serving on various boards and government advisory panels, has previously said thousands of people were in the same situation as Mrs. Blake Morrison following the initial implementation of the “rollover” policy in January 2004. It took immigration officials years, in many cases, to regularize individuals’ status. At one point, between 2007 and 2008, the backlog of permanent residence applications and appeals had reached about 3,500 people.
According to Immigration Department statistics released in April, the backlog of applicants seeking approval of permanent resident status had been reduced to less than 250 people.