Judge orders Jamaican helper can stay … for now

A domestic helper who has lived in Cayman for the past two decades will be allowed to remain and continue working for her current employer until the outcome of a judicial review hearing concerning her case.

Birdy Evadney Blake Morrison of Jamaica was ordered to leave Cayman within 90 days earlier this year when an appeal seeking to grant her permanent resident status failed.

Mrs. Morrison’s employer, prominent local immigration attorney Sherri Bodden-Cowan, argued in an application seeking judicial review of the appeal decision that the long-time Cayman Islands resident should have been given at least a year to get her affairs in order.

Under the old Immigration Law, anyone who was not successful in seeking permanent resident status was automatically given a final, one-year work permit after which they were required to leave the islands. The new law sets that time limit at 90 days.

Mrs. 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 Immigration Law and, therefore, she should be given more time to set her affairs in order.

At most, she would only be given another year to remain in the Cayman Islands before being required to depart for at least 12 months.

In his judgment on the issue, Grand Court Justice Richard Williams agreed that Mrs. Morrison and Mrs. Bodden-Cowan have an arguable case and ordered the matter to proceed to a full hearing.

Mr. Justice Williams said there was a question for the court to consider as to whether the tenets of the old Immigration Law or the new should be considered in this case.

“It is both just and convenient that Mrs. Morrison be permitted to work until the judicial review hearing is disposed of in one way or another,” Mr. Justice Williams wrote. “It is only fair, as she has lived here under a work permit for almost 20 years and she and her son are dependent on the income derived from it.”

Allowed to work

Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans was ordered by the court to make provision to allow Mrs. Morrison to keep working during that time.

There is also a question raised in this case about how Mrs. Morrison, a work permit holder, was allowed to stay in Cayman legally for nearly 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. Morrison made such an application in 2006. The initial application was denied in January 2009 and that denial was appealed to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, which eventually heard the case in October 2013, upholding the denial.

Backlog

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. 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 this month, the backlog of applicants seeking approval of permanent resident status has been reduced to less than 150 people.

However, a new immigration status developed under the current law, called “permission to continue working,” has now been granted to more than 400 non-Caymanians – again remaining in the territory while awaiting decisions on permanent residence applications. The Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board has not started hearing applications for permanent residence under the new Immigration Law yet.

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