Premier Alden McLaughlin appears to be following through on his commitment to “sort out immigration,” and we applaud him for addressing it at the outset of his second term as premier of these islands. Our economic health depends on fixing this interminably broken system.

Whenever we see long lines outside of any agency, it is a sure sign that something is not working inside. At the Department of Immigration, the flaws can be traced to the top, literally to a lack of leadership: The department has been operating without a permanent chief since late 2014, when then-Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans was suspended – with pay – for reasons that never have been publicly disclosed.

(We have written elsewhere and often about the inanity – less of a “waffle-word” would be “insanity” – of allowing civil servants to collect public paychecks, sometimes for years, without the burden of actually having to perform their duties. We simply do not understand why this practice is allowed to continue.)

But back to immigration: Assistant Chief Immigration Officer Jeannie Lewis also is on leave while she faces charges of knowingly assisting a person to land in the Cayman Islands.

And Senior Immigration Officer Garfield “Gary” Wong continues to operate under a cloud as he faces charges of careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and driving under the influence of alcohol. The case is currently being heard in Summary Court, three-and-a-half years since the underlying incident took place in December 2013. Mr. Wong has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Immigration is one of government’s busiest and most important departments, with responsibilities ranging from border control to visas, work permits, residency and status, as well as passports for Caymanians who wish to travel abroad.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson surely understands the need for highly performing leadership in this critical department. The “Linda Evans matter” has been allowed to linger far too long. It’s unfair to her, it’s unfair to the department, and it’s unfair to the Cayman Islands. Friday of this week would not be an unrealistic deadline to resolve this matter, once and for all.

In the longer term, something must be done to streamline and simplify immigration policies and procedures – many of which fall under the purview of volunteer boards. As we have seen with permanent residency applications and the ever-lengthening wait times for approval of work permit applications and routine renewals, the existing infrastructure simply is not able to keep up with immense workloads and Byzantine regulations.

On the positive side, help may finally be on the horizon for the roughly 1,000 people whose permanent residence applications have been gathering dust (growing mold?), sometimes for years, in some musty corner of the Immigration Department.

Ministry Chief Officer Wesley Howell has announced that the Department of Immigration “has reassigned staff members and has recruited Caymanian university graduates to advance the processing of applications.” These workers, he said, will review the applications initially and prepare them for the board’s review.

This, however, raises, a huge red flag.

Many of these permanent residence applications contain hundreds of pages of extremely sensitive, personal and even intimate details about every aspect of an applicant’s life, including their education backgrounds, their medical records, salary history, loans and mortgage information, bank account balances, and on and on.

With so many new employees coming on board to process the backlog of permanent residence applications, how will the privacy and confidentiality of this sensitive information be assured?

Our concern goes beyond who will be vetting these applications and their accompanying documentation, to an overriding issue: Who will be vetting the vetters

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I applaud the Premier in his efforts in trying to clean up all the problems . But I think that he needs to understand how and where these problems comes about .

    I think he should look at the ethical parts of the Laws that govern these Departments and see what has to be fixed there .
    It makes no sense to clean the outside of the pot and not clean the inside , cause the pot would still be dirty.

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  2. Immigration must operate under new Data Protection Law, principle #7 of which says: “be (data) protected by appropriate technical and organisational measures against unauthorised or unlawful processing.”

    If controls don’t exist they must not proceed with PR applications processing, especially in the absence of the
    ” highly performing leadership “.

    “Breaches of the new law can result in fines of up to $100,000 and five years’ imprisonment.” I hope everyone in the immigration department is aware of that.

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. Who ensures the integrity of the Cayman island immigration system?

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  3. I am pleased to note the Compass has taken up my concerns regarding confidentiality in processing the permanent residence applications.
    In relation to the void at the most senior levels of management in the Immigration Dept, this gives me even greater concern. These suspended executives would have had to turn a blind eye to corruption in the lower ranks as they were compomised by their own misdeeds, so where does that leave us?. In my humble opinion the only way out of this mess is to bring in an outsider at the top, if only on a temporary basis, so that we can have an independent review of the department from top to bottom.

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  4. I hope efforts will be made not only to round up corrupt immigration officers , but also the recipients of their corrupt services. Firstly that means that if a business owner or manager has obtained a work permit or permits in a corrupt manner such as bribery (perhaps to accept less than satisfactory proof of experience or education) he should be brought in an charged to the full extent of the law. Hopefully this includes a daily fine for each day that he has been breaking the law by employing someone on a fraudulently obtained permit. Secondly ,that permit should be pulled immediately and that employee sent home ( he should be able to sue the employer for any damages). Once this starts happening then we should see a drop in these corrupt practices.

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