EDITORIAL: PR backlog: The line is getting longer!

Despite increased efforts by Premier Alden McLaughlin, his government, and the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, we report on Page One of today’s newspaper that the number of permanent residency applications is actually increasing, not decreasing.

It’s the same issue Cayman faces with its green iguanas. They are reproducing faster than they can be dispatched.

According to statistics just released in response to an FOI request by the Compass, there are currently more than 1,100 unprocessed permanent residence applications, dating back to 2013.

Significantly, since January through mid-June of this year, 204 new applications were filed. Now the tale-telling math:

For the past month, the Board has reviewed only about 10 PR applications per week. But even those minuscule numbers partially mask the board’s lack of progress, since they include decisions that were deferred (13), applications that had been withdrawn (4) or which were thrown out because they were filed after the deadline (3).

In reality, the board has approved or denied in the last month only 20 applications – an average of five per week.

At this rate, even if we do calculate using the more generous figures, if the board holds hearings once a week, all 52 weeks of the year, it will take 163 weeks (three years and seven weeks) to eliminate the backlog. And that’s assuming that no more applications are filed over the next three-plus years, an absurd assumption since the rate of new filings is growing, not slowing.

This isn’t working, and unless major changes are made, it can never work.

Meanwhile, another line that is getting longer is the line at the courthouse. To date, seven applicants for permanent residency have filed for judicial review, seeking resolution of their applications or compensatory damages from government resulting from the delays.

It would be facile, but incorrect, to view this horde of applicants as ungrateful foreigners squatting on Cayman soil or sand. In fact, every one of them has been resident in Cayman for at least eight years, their work permits have been approved and re-approved multiple times allowing their tenure to continue and, most importantly, it was the Cayman Islands government which passed – but failed to administer – the immigration law governing this entire process.

It is with extreme reluctance that we applaud (what is the sound of “one hand clapping”?) the recent government decision to engage Deloitte to produce yet one more study of our immigration morass. We had hoped the so-called “Ritch Report,” generated by the law firm of Ritch & Conolly, would have been instructive. Its author, presumably David Ritch himself, may well be the islands’ foremost expert on all matters immigration, having served multiple terms as chairman of the Immigration Board.

In any case, a comprehensive review of Cayman’s immigration policies and departmental operations is essential to the economic well-being of these islands. Businesses require stability, certainty and consistency, all of which have been in short supply in recent years as we’ve fiddled around with an ever-changing hodge-podge of immigration “fixes.”

For now, we would counsel our Premier, our Governor, our new Government and the leadership of the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board to re-evaluate their approach to the Permanent Residency backlog. None of the aforementioned wants to be consumed (subsumed?) with this issue for years to come.

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