Non-Caymanians who have remained in the islands for too long, or whose work permits have expired, will be given a month to turn themselves in to avoid prosecution.
The Cayman Islands Immigration Department is beginning an amnesty program for certain immigration-related offenses during the month of August.
The amnesty period will end Aug. 31.
The amnesty was recently suggested by Magistrate Valdis Foldats, who presided over a court case where a Jamaican national who had overstayed for six years was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.
Crown counsel prosecuting the matter noted that deportation had been considered, rather than taking on the additional expense of keeping the man in Cayman.
Mr. Foldats was concerned about the message the court would be sending: “What message does it send to other people if he goes home and says, ‘Hey, I overstayed for six years and got a free ride home!’ There should be some penalty.”
“I think we can all agree there are a number of people who have overstayed and not been caught,” the magistrate commented later. “There might be an amnesty. People might be encouraged to give themselves up.”
Typically immigration amnesties focus on the specific offenses of overstaying and working without a valid permit. However, local employers can also turn in workers who are here illegally without risk of being prosecuted.
The last time the Immigration Department attempted an amnesty was in mid-2010, during which time more than 40 people – ranging in age from six months old to 80 years old – were deported from the islands.
At the time, immigration officials were concerned about so-called “work permits of convenience” – those for individuals who have no, or irregular, work offered by the permit holder.
The Immigration Department reported that 336 people were arrested between July 2016 and November 2017 for the offense of overstaying or assisting another person to overstay.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said at the time the figures were revealed in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee that those arrests, while of concern, may not receive the public attention previously given to the crime of overstaying.
“I think we’re doing more [enforcement] now than ever before,” the premier said. “But I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, sad to say, these offenses are … not making the waves they once did.”
Also, many overstaying cases do not come before the Cayman Islands court system, since the Immigration Department was given the ability in recent years to issue administrative fines. In most overstaying matters, individuals pay a sum of money and then voluntarily remove themselves from the islands, eliminating the need for a “prohibited immigrant” order from the Governor’s Office.