The hundreds of unheard applications for permanent residence aren’t just an administrative logjam; collectively they constitute a potential human rights issue of great peril to the Cayman Islands.

The government’s crisis is a self-inflicted one, the result of a plan that appears to be more oriented around politics than sound and fair immigration policy.

There is no other rational explanation for the first sentence from a news story published in Friday’s Compass: “Although nearly 650 applications for permanent residence in the Cayman Islands have been filed since October 2013, not a single one was accepted or denied during the past year, according to Immigration Department records.”

You read that correctly. Not only have zero PR applications been approved; zero PR applications have been denied. In other words, all of the applications — and by extension the thousands of human lives associated with the paperwork — remain in limbo. (There were a handful of applications that were dismissed for obvious legal reasons, such as not meeting deadlines.)

As we have argued before, Cayman has every right to institute a strict immigration policy, even one that makes it practically impossible for any work permit holder to “graduate” to resident status, so long as it conforms to its own constitutional principles, its laws withstand tests from local and international courts, and it operates according to clear and transparent rules.

The Progressives’ strategy of inviting applications for PR, then not acting on any of them, fails to meet each and every one of those benchmarks.

As far as surmising motivations, we will offer up the simple thesis that the Progressives wish to avoid political consequences for granting PR (which eventually can lead to Caymanian status and voting rights) to a significant number of “foreigners.”

The politicians in power may want voters to believe that they have seized firm control over Cayman’s immigration policy and have tightened restrictions on potential new residents for the benefit of existing Caymanians. In fact, the opposite is true.

Consider Cayman’s Chief Justice Anthony Smellie putting officials “on notice” about potential injustice in Cayman’s immigration system. What the Progressives have done is to put the 650 PR applicants and the government on a collision course that terminates at the courthouse. In other words, the executive/legislative branch threatens to cede authority over Cayman’s immigration policy to the judiciary. (And judge’s rulings, like judge’s gavels, can be powerful and blunt.)

Does any of this sound familiar?

In 2003, then-Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush found himself in just such a situation when a local justice sparked an initiative to give Caymanian status to any of the country’s long-term expatriate residents who took their cases to court.

“If those people had taken it to court, the floodgates were going to have to be opened,” Mr. Bush recalled during a 2012 interview. “I said, ‘that’s a dangerous thing.’”

Under extreme pressure, the government’s solution was the implementation of the revered (by some) and reviled (by others) Cabinet status grants, resulting in the en masse minting of 2,850 new Caymanians by Cabinet and hundreds of others through the Immigration board.

Given the benefit of hindsight, we (like Mr. Bush) don’t know if that was the best possible path for the government to take, but it seems to have been far superior to doing nothing and risking the possibility of 16,000 to 17,000 long-term residents becoming Caymanian overnight, with little to no vetting.

Perhaps this Progressives administration hopes to “stall” action on the hundreds of outstanding PR applications until after the 2017 elections, and push the pile of paperwork onto the lap of the next elected government.

If so, that is a most cavalier, cruel, and reckless approach. The lives of these long-term residents remain in abeyance, hostage to a system which, demonstrably, has failed them – and is failing our country.

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  1. It may or maybe not correct to suggest that The Progressive administration is stalling on PR applications until 2017; However if they are wise they WILL remember what took place during the Bush administration. To say that is to say, that although PR and C S’s were granted then under that administration, majority of Caymanians has punished Mr. McKeeva Bush for that; as if it was a crime he committed, they are not owning up to the fact that every body, in that administration and on the side lines of the administration, ‘HAD A LIST’ with names that they wanted PR and CS for. Yet every one blamed poor Mr McKeeva Bush, as if he was the crook and cranny of it all. Only this man was, has been and still being blamed and accused, when ‘ALL OF THEM” had a list.
    People do not want to hear the truth, so it really does not matter that they do not want to hear this.
    Mr McKeeva Bush has gotten some “Back stabbing” not only from people whom he thought he could trust in his administration, but also from those wo were granted PR and CS. I call that being “ungrateful”, so even if the Progressive administration is foot dragging until 2017, to be honest with all parties, they need to see and remember what happened to Mr Bush, and many of them were part and parcel of the lot.
    Now to reflect on the Government/Immigration move on these applications, I must further reflect that only in the Cayman Islands that you will find the Media and Town Talk, ramping and raging, staging war into pressuring the Government to take quick steps on these applications.
    You will apply for PR in Canada, USA, Germany, Jamaica, GB, Russia , Cuba, and the list can go on and on, but you are not reading any where in the Media or hearing the talk shows pressuring the government to take action as quickly as possible.
    I have no grouse with people wanting to have PR or CS here, but I would very much appreciate that people reflect on what happens in their country; and YES I have problems with persons who ‘CAN’T WAIT” Stop pressuring the Government and Immigration. It is wrong, it is not being done in your country so do not do it here. Cayman never experienced an unrest before, and it hurts my heart to know what is taking place. Aren’t there even a few who can see it some how else except it being their way or the highway?.