Lawmakers in quandary over proving Caymanian status

Premier Alden McLaughlin

It seems individuals sometimes referred to as “ghost Caymanians,” as well as multigenerational Caymanians born in the islands, have a shared immigration problem that is now haunting members of the Legislative Assembly.

“It is not a simple matter at all,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said Tuesday. “Some entity or some individual has got to make a pronouncement as to whether or not a person is Caymanian. That has fallen to immigration who, believe you me, would rather not have to deal with it.”

The issue surrounds proving whether a person has Caymanian status, which is akin to locally accepted citizenship in the British Overseas Territory. Mr. McLaughlin said this proof apparently becomes more difficult to obtain over time for two types of individuals, multigenerational “born” Caymanians and those individuals who came here when they were young or who were born here to non-Caymanian parents and who never regularized their Caymanian status later in life.

The latter difficulty, sometimes referred to by local immigration professionals as territorial laws creating “ghost Caymanians,” is about to come directly before the Legislative Assembly. It involves the case of a woman who has recently been granted Caymanian status by Cabinet.

“[This is] a woman who is now in her 40s, who was born in Cayman, went to school in Cayman … considered herself a Caymanian all the way through,” the premier said. “She wound up marrying a Cuban national who applied for a residence and employment rights certificate based on her Caymanian status.

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“When immigration asked her to prove she was Caymanian, she could not,” he said.

Being born in the Cayman Islands does not automatically make a person Caymanian, according to local immigration rules.

Anyone who has applied for and obtained Caymanian status designating their right to be Caymanian during their lifetime will have a copy of the official paperwork they can use to prove that status. However, in the case of someone who was born here to multigenerational Caymanian parents, they may not have ever received those documents.

Similarly, a “ghost Caymanian” who has lived here all their life and never regularized their immigration status would also never have received the necessary paperwork.

In both cases, neither the person’s birth certificate, nor their British Overseas Territories passport, would be considered absolute proof of locally recognized immigration status. The individual may apply to the Immigration Department for the “acknowledgement of the right to be Caymanian,” but the proofs required can be onerous – involving receiving parents’ or grandparents’ birth documents or even a DNA test in extreme cases.

Making matters worse, the immigration problem often does not arise until later in a person’s life when they are seeking a job, or – in the case now before the Legislative Assembly – when the person gets married to a non-Caymanian.

Premier McLaughlin said even his son, Daegan, an attorney who was recently called to the bar, had to receive an acknowledgement of his citizenship rights.

“He was born here to two Caymanian parents, I don’t know how many generations back,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “But he had to go through the process of getting proof he is Caymanian to provide to employers.”

East End MLA Arden McLean said there is surely something the Cabinet or government civil service apparatus can do to resolve this situation, absent the requirement of every “born” Caymanian or “ghost Caymanian” going down to the Immigration Department to get an acknowledgement.

“It’s too late now. They’re here, we need to deal with them,” Mr. McLean said, in reference to the “ghost Caymanians” issue.

As far as the multigenerational Caymanians, Mr. McLean said: “It’s becoming a hassle for Caymanians and Caymanians are just getting angry about it.”

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