Legislative Assembly grants Caymanian status to 3 residents

Three longtime residents received Caymanian status on Thursday after the Legislative Assembly ratified the Cabinet grants.

Under this process, applicants can apply to the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, which makes recommendations to Cabinet. If Cabinet agrees with the recommendations, the matter is then put before the Legislative Assembly. Four such grants can be made per year.

The people granted status on Thursday were Ergun Berksoy, Chris Bounds and Angelyn Zayas.

Speaking in favor of the grant for Mr. Berksoy, Premier Alden McLaughlin said he is a businessman who owns 33 condos and other property in the territory, which generates more than $500,000 annually for government in tax revenue.

Mr. Berksoy, 73, is also an investor in the Crystal Caves development, which won the Governor’s Conservation Award last year for tourism industry conservation.

When opposition legislator Kenny Bryan asked why Mr. Berksoy had to be granted status by Cabinet, Mr. McLaughlin responded that he is a holder of a residency certificate for persons of independent means and therefore cannot apply for status through the usual channels.

When the premier moved to ratify the grant for Mr. Bounds – who taught in the public school system for more than 30 years before retiring last August – multiple MLAs spoke in the motion’s favor.

“Mr. Bounds taught me and my siblings, and even one of my children. I was shocked to find out that he was not a Caymanian already,” said Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo. “You can’t put a dollar value on his contributions.”

Mr. McLaughlin said that Mr. Bounds never applied for permanent residency in his 35 years on island.

“As a result, the Cabinet grant is the most fitting mechanism to make sure he can enjoy his retirement here,” he said.

The last grant approved was for Ms. Zayas, a 39-year old who was born here to non-Caymanian parents.

Mr. McLaughlin said Ms. Zayas could have received status by a special provision in the former Immigration Law that allowed anyone born in Cayman to non-Caymanian parents between March 27, 1977 and Jan. 1, 1983 who never applied for Caymanian status before they turned 18 to do so.

However, she applied for status long after that provision’s Dec. 31, 2007, deadline expired, and so her application fell to “no power to act.”

The premier said it would be a “travesty” if Cabinet’s grant for her was not approved.

Opposition MLA Arden McLean said he agreed with the motion, but that many other so-called “Ghost Caymanians” are in Ms. Zayas’s position.

Immigration legislation should be amended to allow people like Ms. Zayas to receive status through means other than a Cabinet grant, said Mr. McLean.

The premier responded that such immigration reforms are indeed on government’s agenda.