Down Cayman's immigration rabbit hole

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “what’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.
“Nor I,” said the March Hare.
Alice sighed wearily.

— “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

The hundreds of people in the Cayman Islands who have been waiting, many for more than a year, for decisions on their permanent residence applications must be starting to feel a bit like Alice at the Mad Tea Party — confused, annoyed and famished for resolution.

Just as the tea party hosts dragged Alice from one seat to another before she had the opportunity to eat or drink (the Hatter explained the rotation, “it’s always tea-time, and we’ve no time to wash the things”), Cayman’s PR applicants are having the rules changed on them by their “hosts” (the government) in the middle of the process.

(To tease out the analogy further, the Hatter posed Alice an obscure riddle — “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?” — to which he himself did not know the answer. Our PR applicants have faced nearly-as-nonsensical questions — “In traditional houses, what was the name of the beam that was also used as a shelf?” — on written quizzes that count significantly toward the outcomes of their applications.)

Distressed, and hungry, Alice eventually got up from the table and left the tea party altogether. The author Lewis Carroll notes, “neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her.”

Our fear is that our PR applicants will take a cue from Alice and jump off of Cayman’s immigration carousel. Even if individuals’ departures, for the most part, will go unnoticed except by employers, friends and work associates, in the longer run our country as a whole will sorely miss the aggregate of professional skills, societal contributions and financial resources this group will take with them when they leave.

Perhaps our outlook is not sufficiently positive. Perhaps the Cabinet’s recent changes to immigration regulations (including additions and subtractions) really do signal government’s intent to begin hearing PR applications that have been filed since the immigration law was changed on Oct. 26, 2013; to consider those applications in a fair and objective manner; and to issue timely, equitable and consistent decisions within the framework of the law.

We have strong suspicions, however, that will not turn out to be the case. Our disbelief will linger until letters of determination from the PR board begin hitting the mailboxes of newly minted Cayman permanent residents, as well as dutifully vetted soon-to-be non-residents.

While it remains to be proven otherwise, thus far the preponderance of available evidence points to this elected government’s operating under a thinly veiled agenda that is distinctly oriented against expatriates (even “driftwood” who happen to have Caymanian status) and the businesses which employ them (meaning, nearly all businesses in Cayman).

While we vigorously disagree with that perspective, the principles behind it and the likely economic consequences of it, the least this government could do is to declare its true position and underlying rationale. That would, at minimum, spare many people from much wasted expense, time and anxiety.

To quote another Mad Tea Party attendee, the March Hare, who challenged Alice’s assertion that she could find the answer to the Hatter’s riddle: “Then you should say what you mean.”

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