EDITORIAL – Welcoming our newest residents

Allow us to welcome officially (and very belatedly) the Cayman Islands’ 708 new permanent residents.

After waiting, sometimes for years, for their applications to be heard by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, these applicants have finally been cleared to remain on our islands, to continue working, raising families, and contributing to our society’s collective success.

We also want to recognize immigration officials and PR Board members for their recent display of administrative efficiency. They appear to be clearing up the massive backlog government created when it stopped reviewing (but continued accepting) PR applications toward the end of 2014.

Following years of inaction, the board since last May has reviewed 1,656 applications and reached 1,236 decisions. In addition to the 708 people whose applications have been approved, 528 applications were denied, with hundreds of those decisions being appealed. Only 80 applications remain in limbo.

Cayman’s newest official “permanent residents” don’t require much introduction. After many years of living here, they’re already well known to their neighbors, coworkers, friends and associates. (In other words, our community.)

Similarly, they do not need “freshman orientation” in regard to local laws, rules, communities and idiosyncrasies. (They know to drive on the left-hand side of the road, that a honk can mean “hello” and that “soon come” is synonymous for “make yourself comfortable, this could take a while.”)

Currently, Cayman is booming and blooming – as evidenced by continued development and economic growth. Our country needs many more smart, hardworking and socially invested people to continue fueling our skyward trajectory – exactly the type of people who apply for and are granted PR status.

Many (including the Compass in editorials) have voiced complaints about Cayman’s infrastructure problems, whether it’s the availability of housing, daily traffic snarls or Saturday gridlock at Owen Roberts International Airport. Although such issues range from irritations to real impediments, it is important to keep in mind that these “growing pains” are actually undesirable consequences of what is ultimately a good news story: Cayman is thriving.

Understandably, the rise of the “New Cayman” engenders feelings of nostalgia for the “Old Cayman,” where crime was scarce, traffic rare and Seven Mile Beach a virginal expanse of white sand and turquoise sea.

Of course, no place is, or was, as perfect as it is in memory. Rather than mourning the loss of an indeterminate “Golden Age” that is most likely a sepia-toned myth, we should view the ongoing changes to our country as a forward-moving metamorphosis.

Just as the integration of new residents to our islands is something to be celebrated, the continuing segregation of our society is something to be condemned – even if it is being masqueraded as a policy of “protectionism.”

Perhaps the most obvious example to us is our education system, where the decision made long ago to reserve public education almost exclusively for Caymanians has resulted in today’s two-track system that funnels foreigners and Caymanians with means into generally superior private schools, and less wealthy Caymanians into public schools. Such state-mandated segregation (as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its landmark 1954 decision in Brown v Board of Education) prima facie results in schools (and outcomes) that are separate and unequal.

The phenomenon also can be seen in the civil service, where Caymanian-centric (and sometimes Caymanian-only) HR policies lock employees in velvet handcuffs, removing incentives and competition that could ignite efficiency and innovation on an organizational level, and professional growth on an individual level.

The philosophy of protectionism – which permeates Cayman, starting with immigration and employment laws – threatens to stifle the success of the very class of people officials are trying to protect.

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