EDITORIAL – Dilly-dallying and bureaucratic delays at Immigration

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”
– H. Ross Perot

How long does it take to stamp a passport? Five seconds? Maybe 10 seconds, if you fumble the pages?

How about six months?

That is the length of time attorneys say some new Caymanian status holders and permanent residents have had to wait for documentation of their status following successful applications to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.

Recently we have watched, with some level of appreciation, as stepped-up operations at the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board have significantly decreased the “PR limbo lines” from more than 1,000 applicants to “only” a couple of hundred.

Now, it seems, the immigration powers-that-be have – either through accident, ineptitude or intentionality, we do not know – discovered a new way to keep new Permanent Residents and Caymanian status holders from receiving their due – by sometimes taking months to issue routine documentation of their new immigration status.

On behalf of their clients, lawyers from HSM Chambers aren’t having it. They have filed for judicial review, alleging several instances of the Immigration Department “refusing to give timely effect to rulings of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.” They describe clients being forced to wait for months before immigration staff sent letters confirming the appeals commission’s decision and issued the appropriate stamps.

The lawyers say they could find no reason for the “wholly unreasonable” delays – that the decision had been made and necessary fees paid, for example. They write that even though the specific cases they mention eventually were resolved, many more appellants could find themselves in similar “letter limbo” if immigration does not take this issue seriously – and resolve it.

We are more than passingly familiar with HSM – they are not in the habit of rushing to the courthouse without reason. Absent an alternative explanation (which we would be pleased to publish in the Compass), we have no reason to doubt the facts HSM presents in court documents.

The way we see it, immigration officials – particularly acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith – have a handful of options:

  • Ignore the problem (meaning “do nothing”).
  • Blame the victims and attorneys for bringing the issue to court – and, while they are at it, the Compass for bringing the matter to light.
  • Hand it over to “legal” and meet their opponents in court.
  • Identify those responsible, hold them to account, and fix the problem.

It is conceivable that Chief Immigration Officer Smith was never made aware there was a problem with letters from the tribunal. Sometimes, employees hide things from their bosses.

But now that the issue has been made public in court documents and on the front page of this newspaper, Mr. Smith does know.

Regardless of whether the latest delays are “purposeful” or “accidental,” the appearance is that a vindictive government is dragging its feet to avoid fulfilling its legally mandated duties.

Not only does immigration’s inaction cause actual harm – interfering with people’s ability to travel, work or obtain education for their children – it fosters disharmony between the “local-born” and “localized” segments of Cayman’s community.

Just last week, the government announced that the Immigration Department was one of 10 public entities selected to participate in a pilot project on “delivering outstanding customer experience,” part of Acting Governor Franz Manderson’s broad quest to improve the performance of the civil service. (Mr. Manderson, of course, knows a thing or two about immigration, starting his career in the department and rising through the ranks to become Chief Immigration Officer. And then Deputy Governor. And now Acting Governor. We can’t help but imagine what we could do in just a day if someone were foolish enough to give us any of those titles …)

Mr. Manderson said, “The principle underpinning our customer service strategy is simple. We aim to put the customer at the heart of everything that we do.”

Memo to immigration: “Customer” includes residents, visitors, expatriates, new permanent residents and freshly minted Caymanians.

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  1. Anyone who has ever had to renew a driving license in the USA will know that the lines are not much different from here.
    The same if they are USA Permanent Residents needing a Green Card. They can expect to wait for hours in line. Just like here.

    And just try applying for a Carte de Sejour in France for a real run around.

    The fact is that our government employees are not any slower or less diligent than those in other countries.