Two independent opposition MLAs said they oppose granting permanent resident status to long-term Cayman Islands workers who do not have direct family connections to the islands, in comments made during budget debates over the past week.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller raised the issue June 1 in the context of a legal review of Cayman’s permanent residence approval system. The review began last year after Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie issued a judgment in August that raised numerous questions about how current and previous residency applications were handled. Following Justice Smellie’s ruling, immigration attorney David Ritch was hired by government to review its policies and laws, specifically with regard to the permanent residence application and approval process.
No applications for permanent residence have been approved under the most recent revisions to the Cayman Islands Immigration Law, which took effect in October 2013.
Mr. Miller gave his view of the ongoing immigration issues during his debate on June 1.
“We have the review of the PR provisions in the Immigration Law to ensure non-Caymanians can now stay, get Caymanian status after PR and keep the jobs from qualified Caymanians,” Mr. Miller said.
“Where is the promised immigration reform that was promised to us in October 2013 … which was supposed to tighten up on work permits and [make] other changes that needed to be made to benefit Caymanians? Let me repeat what Ezzard Miller’s position is on this: The only [way] you should be able to get Cayman status is by marriage or descent. I don’t think anybody should be able to come to my country as an economic migrant and get Caymanian status because they’ve made plenty of money,” said Mr. Miller.
In his budget debate Monday, East End MLA Arden McLean said that a distinction should be made in the Immigration Law between granting someone Caymanian status and awarding them “security of tenure.”
Mr. McLean also noted his view that only non-Caymanians who are married to Caymanians or who have family ties to the islands should be allowed to obtain Caymanian status, which is akin to legal “belonger” status in other British Overseas Territories.
Now, any worker who stays in Cayman as a legal resident for at least eight years is allowed to apply for permanent residence – the right to reside in Cayman for the rest of their life. The residency status does not convey any citizenship rights in the U.K. or Caymanian status rights here, both of which must be sought separately and only after qualifying for permanent residence.
Other U.K. territories have also struggled with the issue in recent days, most notably Bermuda, which has not maintained “path to citizenship” legislation for non-Bermudians who have no family ties to the country. Attempts to change the law to allow long-term workers without family ties to Bermuda to seek permanent status were met with protests that included an attempt to blockade the doors of parliament.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has received Mr. Ritch’s report on the review of the permanent residence system and said he would address it later on during the meeting of the Legislative Assembly, which is expected to run through this month.