‘Ritch report’ kept secret

There are no plans to release a $312,000 consultant’s report that reviewed numerous legal problems with Cayman’s system of granting permanent residence to non-Caymanians, even though the government restarted hearing those residency applications and has approved more than 300 since June, Premier Alden McLaughlin said last week.

Premier McLaughlin said the report, done by local law firm Ritch & Conolly, is considered legal advice to government and that his administration is still planning further changes to the residency grant system based on its findings.

“I am not about to put that [report] in the hands of lawyers who are filing suits against the government every other day with respect to immigration matters,” Mr. McLaughlin told the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee last week.

Precisely what changes to the current permanent residence system government is considering have not been made public. However, local immigration attorneys have noted changes to the system made in March of this year that allowed government to begin hearings on more than 1,100 backlogged residency applications were “largely cosmetic” and did not fix deep-seated problems that have existed since 2004.

Mr. McLaughlin said there would still have to be changes to the residency process to address issues which “derailed” it for about two-and-a-half years between January 2015 and June 2017.

Steady hearings held by Immigration Department staffers and the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board since then have been “making good headway” on lowering the number of backlogged applications from people who had waited more than three years in some cases for their matters to be heard, the premier said.

“We have taken some fairly aggressive steps to come to grips with the situation,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

However, there are still more than 800 outstanding applicants awaiting a decision and the premier told finance committee members this week that more people who have maintained continuous residence in Cayman for eight years would be applying in the future.

“I don’t think we’ll ever reach a point when there are zero applications in the queue,” Mr. McLaughlin said. ”The overriding issue was to deal with the long-standing applications that were there. I think the situation is well under control.”

Lawsuits

Although the premier made reference to immigration-related lawsuits, only eight applications for judicial review were ever filed in relation to delays in the permanent residency process.

All eight of those people who sought the Grand Court to hear their cases later received grants of residency, but those matters are still before the court where settlement discussions are ongoing.

According to the applicants’ attorneys at HSM Chambers, the judicial review actions sought potential monetary damages against the public sector because of the lengthy delays.

“This has been a difficult process and one which we can lament became necessary,” HSM Chambers partner Nicolas Joseph said in a letter sent to the firm’s immigration clients.

The judicial review applicants’ claims sought only to have their respective cases considered. There was no outright demand made that they be granted permanent residency rights. Rather, the claims state that government representatives acted unreasonably and unlawfully in refusing to hear the applications for a period of years and that damages had occurred to those individuals as a result.

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