Learning from the Bahamas' latest bungle

As those who gathered ’round the dinner table this past weekend to celebrate American Thanksgiving already well know, oftentimes the most instructive conversations to be had are with kith and kin whose examples are to be scrutinized studiously — and then avoided.

For the average Cayman Islander, it could be the uncle who always seems to drink too much, the teetotaler brother-in-law who could stand a Cabernet or two, the new-moneyed cousins who won’t stop blabbing about their possessions, or the jealous ones who can’t help begrudging them for it, vocally. There’s the sibling who showed up with the sole intent of roping someone in on his latest get-rich-quick scheme, the doe-eyed aunt who’s already reaching for her checkbook, and the wizened grandfather threatening to strike him from the will, again, and this time for good.

For the Cayman Islands as a whole, it could be the neighboring countries whose forays into independence have resulted in something closer to failed nation status than triumphant nationhood. Or smaller territories who grapple with similar obstacles as we do, in areas such as criminal justice, public accountability, financial services, tourism, disaster preparation and waste management.

In the broader context of the global assemblage of peoples, there are few more apt illustrations of familial dysfunction than the Caribbean region, of which Cayman (lest we somehow manage to forget) is a member.

Circumstances of culture, geography and history forge ties that bind inexorably, to one degree or another, and while this Editorial Board is of the opinion that the nature of our relationships with our Caribbean half-brothers, stepsisters and second-cousins-twice-removed should be as circumspect as possible, those relationships nonetheless do and must exist.

And one of the greatest benefits that Cayman can derive from our Caribbean identity is to observe what our extended family is doing, and to learn from their mistakes.

And so we turn our attention to the Bahamas – who, as some may recall, essentially bequeathed its North America banking industry to Cayman beginning in the late 1960s because of politically induced turmoil, increasing racial tensions and (as it proved, economically suicidal) protectionist policies. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, the Bahamas’ loss proved to be Cayman’s gain.

Recently, the Bahamas’ actions in the area of immigration have grabbed international headlines, which we hope local officials have read in earnest, for our neighbor is again providing us with an example of what not to do.

Inconsistent application of immigration laws in the Bahamas has, over the decades, fostered a dramatic rise in the number of Haitian migrants (many of them with unclear, at best, legal residency status) — who now make up 10 percent of the Bahamas’ population. In an attempt to crack down on illegal immigration and tighten the country’s borders, the Bahamian government announced a series of new immigration rules, including that as of Nov. 1, everyone living in the Bahamas must have a passport of their nationality — a tricky prospect for the large number of Bahamas-born children of Haitian migrants.

However, what has attracted the high-profile ire of human rights groups and other entities, was not so much the substance of the law, but the manner of enforcement, which the global media is portraying as rather draconian. From the Associated Press: “On the first day new immigration rules took effect this month in the Bahamas, officers in green fatigues swept through poor sections of the capital filling two yellow school buses with dozens of people who couldn’t document their right to be in the island chain.”

From our perspective, it seems the Bahamas has, while pursuing a solution to a localized problem, created for itself — at the very least — an international public relations problem.

The lesson for Cayman is, particularly when foreigners are involved, foreign eyes are always watching, and foreign tongues can spread information that can cause real reputational damage. It’s a lesson we should avoid repeating.


  1. Dear Editorial Board

    I see from the first comment that your article is rather confusing, wordy and beats more around the mulberry bush than the weasel.

    That said, my take from the article is that the Bahamas separated from the UK back in 1973 and its economy has been swirling the drain ever since. Cant tell you when Jamaica made the same blunder. Please note I am Canadian and not British as my comments might suggest.

    In summary, when a life jacket is available, keep it for when you need it and you dont have to wear it every minute of the day.

    Same goes here. Cayman has been very successful in most cases in determining its own destiny but the life jacket was always there in times when that swirling drain was in sight.

    So Editorial Board, give it another go without the similies and metaphors and get to the point.

  2. Len ye got me in stitches this morning. I never laughed so hard for a long time, and you know I was confused that I could not find a word to say.
    I tell you if it was not for the people that write and make you laugh your head off at their jokes it would be a dull morning.
    Happy Monday everyone.

  3. Dear Caycompass

    I have to agree with Len but I DO get the point and it is a very dull one, imo.

    All the confusing and irrelevant analogies does not hide the fact that Caycompass is very pro work permit immigration for the Cayman Islands.

    That point has been made very clear on previous occasions and Caycompass’s position is very well noted.

    However, to question the Bahamas Govt. right and responsibility to clamp down on illegal immigration and labour within its own borders is stretching the point a bit too far.

    And using the issue of negative world press and opinions as a reason why the Bahamas should not take its illegal immigration problem seriously and address it is indeed adding insult to injury.

    And, FYI, the Caymanian situation has absolutely NO comparison with the Bahamas in any way shape or form.

  4. yes Mr Barlow, the point is worth making, but what a nonsense of an editorial!
    But, Mr Tatum, whilst the Government of Bermuda has to control immigration, they seem to be doing too much too late, after all, these people have been arriving for some time, and given the amount of water separating these two Islands they must have been aware of the Haitian people. To react like this and so late is to invite bad publicity.
    As to being pro work permit, given the two principal industries, to be anti work permit is to be blind to reality. Each industry needs outsiders, one because the local people don’t wish to do the mundane, and the other because the highly technical skills have to be brought in from outside given the lack of trained people available locally1

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