EDITORIAL – Government’s contempt for PR applications

The immigration story that appears on the front page of today’s Cayman Compass is one of triumph and despair.

The triumph is shared by Michelle Hutchinson-Green and Alisha Racz, who after a years-long struggle against “the system,” were finally granted permanent residence in their adopted home of the Cayman Islands.

The despair is on the part of the ruling Progressives government, which has made it its mission to refuse granting PR to, well, anyone.

Readers may recall that about a year ago, in  August 2015, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie issued a ruling that slammed the government’s approach to immigration and described the denial of the two women’s PR appeals as amounting to a “miscarriage of justice.” (On this page we referred to Mr. Smellie’s ruling as a “judicial ‘slapdown’.”)

After the chief justice’s ruling, a reasonable presumption would be that Ms. Hutchinson-Green and Ms. Racz would swiftly become Cayman’s two newest permanent residents – an event that in itself would be newsworthy in light of the Progressives’ “none shall pass” mentality toward granting PR status under their new Immigration Law, which took effect in October 2013.

Further, one might have thought the chief justice’s scathing opinion would goad (embarrass?) officials into pursuing remedies for the broader deficiencies he had identified in the law. It did nothing of the sort.

Instead, officials indulged in even further delays, and Ms. Hutchinson-Green (who first applied for PR in November 2006) and Ms. Racz were forced to wait nearly a year longer to see their rights under the law being respected by the government.

Concerning the two women specifically, Chief Justice Smellie sent a message to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal that couldn’t have been louder or more clear: Rectify their earlier miscarriage of justice, immediately.

Bewilderingly, Tribunal members didn’t follow the chief justice’s orders for 10 months and then, once they finally reconsidered the applications, took another month to issue their decisions.

Following Chief Justice Smellie’s ruling, the government hired local attorney David Ritch to review immigration policies and laws, with an emphasis on permanent residence. The review was completed and submitted to government months ago.

In early June, Premier Alden McLaughlin acknowledged that he had the Ritch report in hand and promised to address it during that meeting of the Legislative Assembly. He didn’t.

To date, Mr. Ritch’s report has not been made public. Why not?

The report, which was supposed to be part of the solution to the issues highlighted by the chief justice, has instead been utilized by government as another means by which to delay or avoid addressing these immigration issues.

We recognize contempt when we see it — if not for the authority of the courts (and this may qualify) — certainly in regard for one’s fellow human beings, as well as for the public interest.

Ms. Hutchinson-Green and Ms. Racz managed to make it through government’s PR gauntlet, but hundreds more have been stuck in limbo for years, and remain so, while officials sit on their applications.

Since the chief justice’s ruling, at least two PR applicants have filed legal actions against immigration boards alleging violations of their rights. One of those writs is extremely similar to the two cases addressed by the chief justice.

The Progressives’ version of immigration equilibrium is destined not to last. The question is, will it fall apart before, or after, the next election?