Realigning the Department of Immigration

The case in favor of divesting the Cayman Islands Department of Immigration of its power to approve or deny work permits has merit. Probably the best argument has been the ineffective, ineffectual and, at times, apparently political manner with which immigration officials have approached that responsibility for years (actually decades).

Without more study and contemplation, the Cayman Compass is not yet prepared to declare our support for the elevation of the National Workforce Development Agency (even less so, the Department of Labour and Pensions) specifically to the role of taking on the issuance of work permits.

However, as mentioned recently by Employment Minister Tara Rivers and her ministerial councilor Winston Connolly, it does make sense to separate “immigration” (border control, visas, residency decisions, status grants, etc.) from what should be business staffing decisions.

When the two functions are conflated, the process becomes susceptible to political interference and bureaucratic arbitrariness.

One example: During the same meeting Friday where Ms. Rivers and Mr. Connolly made their comments on separating immigration from work permits, Employment Ministry Deputy Chief Officer Tasha Ebanks-Garcia observed that while there is no official requirement for employers to register with the NWDA, in practice the ones that have not registered are finding it more difficult to obtain work permits – because the Immigration Department considers NWDA registration as evidence that the employer tried to find a suitable Caymanian.

Wait a minute. If Cayman legislators want to amend the law to mandate that employers register with NWDA in order to obtain work permits in a timely and fair fashion, then let them do just that.

While the Compass would oppose such a requirement on the grounds that it would be yet another bureaucratic burden being placed on the backs of businesses, at least it would be transparent.

With the imminent arrival of new NWDA Director Brian Holland, the islands have an opportunity to rebuild the troubled agency into an effective institution charged with the Herculean task of matching suitable employers with employable Caymanians.

We do take note of the superficial irony of a non-Caymanian being hired to promote Caymanian employment – a circumstance that has become fodder for the usual incendiaries on talk radio. But, other than symbolically, Mr. Holland’s nationality is of no importance whatsoever.

Consider the math: If hiring Mr. Holland – whose CV includes advanced academic degrees and decades of relevant professional experience – results in the employment of 20, 50, 100 or 1,000 more Caymanians, then his own country of origin is irrelevant – statistically and otherwise.

Caymanians pride themselves on being the friendliest people in the world. Local custom, traditional hospitality and good manners would dictate that any newcomer be greeted with welcome smiles, warm handshakes and best wishes. All judgments should be reserved until Mr. Holland’s performance can be evaluated.

The word “prejudice” relates, literally, to “pre-judgment” – and that is something that intelligent people studiously avoid. Too often, prejudice and ignorance coexist in the same corpus.

Here at the Compass, we wish Mr. Holland the very best in his new endeavor and lend him our support in achieving our national goal of maximizing employment and economic opportunities for Caymanians and their expatriate brethren alike.


  1. Hmm, if he can get jobs for Caymanians good. If by changing the process from immigration to NWDA that gives jobs to Caymanians then great. Let us not forget minimum wage law at the same time . If these plans work and don’t take fours more years of waiting it could help the economy .

  2. Dissapointing to see a qualified Caymanian could not head up the NWDA. But I can tell you that responsibilities from Immigration should be passed on to NWDA or Education until they get their act together. They cant handle it.

Comments are closed.