The Cayman Compass, unlike many newspapers in the United States and elsewhere, does not endorse candidates, or slates of candidates, running for political office. Instead, we have adopted an “issue-oriented approach,” focusing on the major social and economic concerns the country and, by proxy, the candidates face.
Beginning today and for the remainder of this week, we will devote the front page of the Compass to a single issue of paramount importance to the well-being of these islands. Each issue will be accompanied in this space with an editorial sharing our thoughts and opinions on the topic at hand.
Today we will focus on immigration and permanent residence, to be followed by healthcare on Wednesday, education on Thursday, and the landfill and other environmental issues on Friday.
If biology is destiny for individuals, certainly immigration is destiny for countries and territories, and the Cayman Islands is not exempt.
Immigration is the clumsy mechanism through which not only expatriates flow, but also political and economic policies. It is an issue that Cayman has been grappling with for decades – to the satisfaction of practically no one.
It may be time to “reframe” the issue.
The immediate crisis du jour, of course, relates to permanent residence (PR). The current Progressives government, under the leadership of Premier Alden McLaughlin, has put the country at great risk, since there are potentially hundreds of PR applicants (think of them as potential “plaintiffs”) whose applications have been dormant for nearly four years as their careers and their lives have limped along in limbo.
The premier and his fellow legislators have dilly-dallied, obfuscated, commissioned reports (and withheld them from public view), announced and ignored their own deadlines and otherwise acted in what appears to be purposeful inaction. It is unlikely that the courts will look favorably on this sorry, if not sordid, record.
We won’t re-walk with you the painful path of immigration history in these islands, but milestones would certainly include the mass status grants of 2003, the divisive and disastrous rollover policy of 2004, the myriad of backlogged boards, and, of course, the tangle of imprecise and incomprehensible laws, rules and regulations that only a lawyer could love – or understand.
Despite the legal, reputational and economic consequences we are now facing, the real peril is far different – and far greater:
It is the artificial, politically encouraged, division of our people that is contrary to Cayman’s past and will be utterly destructive to its future. It is the widening chasm between two roughly equal-in-size populations: the “Caymanians” and the “expatriates.” The Caymanians hold the political advantage, the expatriates the economic edge.
But here is the main point: Each is umbilically attached to the other. If one perishes, the other shares the same fate.
Cayman is far too small to be divided into tiny electoral districts – or into two distinct and disparate populations. One obvious example: The government-mandated segregation of our schools – expatriates in superior private schools, Caymanians in inferior public schools – is a guarantee of separate and unequal futures.
Successive governors could, or should, have intervened decades ago in immigration matters, especially since they involve human rights and international norms and conventions to which the United Kingdom is both an advocate and a signatory. But they have remained silent.
Perhaps it is just as well. Mandates from afar may lead to acquiescence but rarely to acceptance. Graveyards are filled with failed kings who thought otherwise.
For Cayman, our chosen path must be unity, equality and harmony, not deliberate discord and division. Both Jesus and Lincoln recognized the same truth: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Going forward, in immigration matters and, indeed, all others, it must no longer be “us” and “them.” It must be “we.”