Editorial year in review: Immigration and employment

Work permits and unemployment: Exposing the myth,” March 9 

The assertion that foreign workers take jobs from Caymanians has been reported and repeated so often that the utterance has attained nearly mythic stature. And that’s where it belongs: in the realm of myth. … 

When work permits go up, Caymanian unemployment goes down. 

When work permits go down, Caymanian unemployment goes up. 

In other words, it is simply not evidence-based to equate the issuance of a work permit to an expatriate with a lost job opportunity for a Caymanian. 

Sorry, Ezzard. … 

Simply put, the healthier Cayman’s economy, the more job opportunities are available … for everybody – expatriates and Caymanians alike. 

“Work permits and PR: Unshackling Cayman’s economic progress,” July 24 

Over the past year, the number of work permit holders in the Cayman Islands rose 9 percent – from 20,360 to 22,232 people. This includes a 12 percent increase in workers from Jamaica, who now number about 9,100. 

Make no mistake – that is very good news for Cayman’s economy. … 

We maintain, and evidence-based analysis supports, the argument that the more people working in Cayman, regardless of immigration status, the better for the overall economy – and the better the overall economy is, the more job opportunities there are for everyone, both Caymanians and non-Caymanians. 

When functioning properly, it’s a cycle of positive feedback. … 

Rather than continuing to treat expatriates as “rented” labor for a specified rollover period, we should transform our immigration regime so that work permit holders are regarded fundamentally as candidates for permanent residence, and potentially full-blown Caymanian status. 

In other words, provide expatriates with a clear and level pathway to citizenship, so to speak. … 

This evolution in immigration ethos would encourage expatriates to keep and invest their money in Cayman. And, as foreign workers – after proving themselves as fit additions to our society – transition to PR status, it would reduce our country’s reliance on work permits and make that particular number increasingly irrelevant to the condition of Cayman’s economy. 

“The uncomfortable truth about unemployment,” Oct. 29 

The relationship between “work permits” and “work” continues to be erroneously overstated in the Cayman Islands. 

Here is the truth, demonstrated by statistical evidence: There is no correlation between the number of work permit holders on island and the number of unemployed Caymanians. If anything, more work permits indicate a stronger local economy, meaning more job opportunities for everyone – Caymanians and expatriates. 

The danger in the prevailing mis-association presents itself when “work permit holders” become synonymous with “unemployed Caymanians.” Although this mythology is purely fictional, it can lead to … resentment, divisiveness and disorder. … The reality is, when seeking out job candidates, the mentality of employers is already “Caymanians first, expatriates last,” for fiscal, rational and, yes, cultural reasons. 

If our officials persist in playing at an inappropriate “blame game” – that is, blaming employers for unemployment – then half of the discourse on Cayman’s social and economic problems is based on falsehoods. And we will never be able to address the real issues. 

For the good of everyone living in this country, it is time to end the public charade, and once and for all, to expunge the excusatory untruth that most of Cayman’s businesses discriminate against Caymanians. 

They don’t. 

“Judicial ‘slapdown’: Government better pay attention,” Sept. 1 

Did you hear that? It might sound like the fall of a gavel – but if you listen more closely, you may recognize the noise of floodgates opening. 

We refer to the judicial decision of Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who, when ruling in favor of two women whose applications for permanent residence had been denied, used the following terms in reference to our territory’s immigration process: “miscarriage of justice,” “immediate and obvious concerns,” “opaque, uncertain and prone to arbitrariness,” “appearance of bias,” “unconscionably long delays,” “impeded the course of justice” and “irrational” under the Constitution. 

The deluge to which we allude relates to a flood of potential court actions that could be filed by any number of Caymanians, residents or foreigners who have suffered unjustly because of capricious decisions made by politically appointed boards in Cayman, across the spectrum of administrative law. … 

This Editorial Board is of the opinion that Cayman has almost every right in the world to delineate immigration policies as strictly and specifically as is desired, so long as they are transparent and consistent. 

The caveat is this: Cayman does not have the right to create a set of guidelines, particularly on something as important as permanent residency, that are incompatible with universal principles recognized by the United Kingdom (and relevant European courts). Cayman is a derivative of that network; our legal system is founded on common law; and we must adhere to the concept that our learned members of the judicial bench might cite as “natural justice.” 

That applies to all legislation, not just immigration, and throughout the bureaucracy, including Cayman’s myriad of appointed boards, which routinely issue decisions that could quite easily become the basis for successful legal action. 

We would venture to guess that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of instances of injustice that align with the fundamental framework outlined in the ruling by Justice Smellie, and that could potentially be subject to the same sort of scrutiny. 

“Abusing the most vulnerable among us,” April 13 

The most illuminating reading of the Cayman Islands government’s report on the minimum wage has little to do with wages and everything to do with decency. … 

In the course of arriving at a deceptively simple public policy proposal, the committee delves into some of the darkest recesses of our country, pulling back the curtain on attitudes, behaviors and practices that, in hindsight, many may prefer to have been left undisturbed or, at least, unremarked. 

The real substance of the committee’s report is related only tangentially to the topic of the minimum wage. The report’s greater value consists in its depiction of a minority of miscreants in Cayman society, who – emboldened by “cultural norms” and enabled by a complicit system – regularly mistreat, abuse and exploit their most vulnerable fellow human beings … people whom they, ironically enough, have invited to occupy positions that often necessitate a great amount of trust. 

The injustices the committee documents have not been perpetrated by cold, profit-calculating companies, but by individual Cayman households (our country’s “moms” and “pops”) who employ Jamaican and Filipino domestic workers. 

The stories related by those household workers to the committee are ones not typically found within the pages of this newspaper, or in any local media, not because we aren’t told about them, but because we are rarely told about them “on the record.” The storytellers are scared, and perhaps rightly so. … The gross ill-treatment of Cayman’s “helpers,” nannies and housekeepers is a stain on our country’s conscience that cannot, and must not, be ignored or tolerated. 

In the words of Lady Macbeth, “Hell is murky.” 

The only solution for darkness is sunshine.