Immigration crackdown

First Published: 2015-02-04

"On balance, immigrants are not a drag on the economy. As workers, consumers, entrepreneurs, and taxpayers, they invigorate it and contribute healthy economic benefits. Admitting immigrants improves everyone’s standard of living, theirs and ours." Julian Simon

The drama being played out recently over the "rounding up" of Haitians seems little more than political posturing.

The fact is, the precedent has been set by successive governments ignoring the plight (some less than others) of illegal immigrants in our midst for as long as The Bahamas has been independent. People are born here and left stateless when they are adults and are not able to contribute meaningfully to The Bahamas or any other country through no fault of their own.

So the immigration department rounds them and up and attempts to ship them off (repatriate them is the politically correct term).

As an aside, besides the contribution the Haitian immigrants make to this community, they send money back home to help their relatives. This probably serves as better humanitarian aid than funds sent to the Haitian political class.

The Immigration department of the government is implementing a revised policy to grant permits and charge fees for children born here to go to school. The weak defence to criticisms of this new policy is to compare their action to Bahamian students having to apply and pay for a visa to study in the United States.

At the same time the department of immigration recently raised work permit taxes for expatriate workers (mostly professionals) to work in the private sector, and is now reportedly raising fees for permanent residency and more.

In the meantime, The Bahamas Government continues to hire expatriates, some say hundreds, without the constraints it places on the private sector.

Work permits for foreigners to work for the government are issued without hesitation, at the stroke of pen, while the private sector must wait for months and grapple with the government "losing the application" and more.

Instead of selling the elixir of xenophobia for political purposes, The Bahamas should harness the horse that’s already bolted the barn to its advantage in a rational manner.

Legitimising the stateless individuals in the country is crucial to creating a civil way forward and helping solve a generational problem for The Bahamas.

First and foremost, the Haitian Government should provide passports to all children born here to illegal immigrants.

Second, as this is home to those children, they should be provided with some form of status of residency allowing them the opportunity to work or go off to college and contribute to society, either here, Haiti or wherever they are welcomed.

Allowing Bahamians to enjoy the benefits resulting from legal immigrants like increases in investment, productivity, ethnic restaurants, ideas, and more is necessary for the advancement of The Bahamas in general.

As Julian Simon said:

"We do not need to balance the gains to them against the sacrifice to ourselves. We do not even need to raise the ethical issue of drawing a boundary around our nation and saying that those lucky enough to be born within are entitled to opportunities that we deny to others. Immigration is good for ourselves at the same time that it is good for the immigrants."

The elephant in the room is the inherent danger when the Immigration Laws are subject to the whim of the Minister, Fred Mitchell in this instance, instead of impartial law. The unintended consequences might be as many as they are varied.

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