Cubans’ dilemma

| 16/09/2008

(CNS): A Cuban-Caymanian living on Grand Cayman has said that their situation is far worse than that of other nationalities. “We are the only nationality that looses our residency in our country and still don’t get immediate residency in the place we now call home and where we would stay and live for the rest of our lives. In other words, we are expatriates here and in Cuba,” she said.

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush posed a Private Member’s Motion to regularise the status of Cayman-Cubans on Monday, 8 September, saying many of them were now being denied permanent residency because of the new law. Bush also asked that the facility be extended to Nicaraguans with Caymanian connections and US-born children of Caymanians. Bodden Town MLA Osbourne Bodden also raised the issue of other nationals with Cayman connections and said he believed that the motion should extend to Hondurans.

The Cuban-Caymanian, requesting anonymity, told CNS that all the other nationalities can live and work here while renting their house back in their home countries. They can purchase homes and land as security for a safe return home when they can no longer work in Cayman or simply don’t want to stay here any more.

“We Cubans, once we leave home we no longer can own or buy anything and even worse we can never return home again to stay, only to visit maximum for 21 days with a visa. Everything we once owned and worked hard to get is taken away from us before we leave. We cannot leave the island unless we sign our home and all personal possessions off to the government,” she said.

“It is hard to go back and see that someone that we don’t even know is living in the place we built and lived for most of our lives. Not even a family member can stay in our home unless they were living with us for the past 10 consecutive years, and if they do meet this criteria they would have to pay for everything in the home, plus for the house as if they had just purchased everything new. No other nationality has that problem here.”

She said that when Cubans arrive in Grand Cayman, they get an exception stamp in their Cuban passports to stay and work here for unlimited time, but the only place they can travel with that passport is from here to Cuba and back. In addition, they can’t get a US visa with a Cuban passport.

“Most Cubans here have never had the opportunity to travel out side the country because of this,” she said. “Vacation after vacation, most Cuban families with born-Cayman kids have to stay home and see how all the other families can take their kids to places like Disney World, while the Cuban kids can only make it to Cuba.”

All Cubans have to follow the same procedures to get residency in the Cayman Islands and only some who have the closest Cayman connection, like grandparents and parents, are better off, but they still have nephews, nieces, cousins and other relatives and friends who need help with their immigration status, she said. Refugees who were allowed to stay here were given a special passport which allowed them to travel anywhere except  Cuba, where everyone must enter with a Cuban passport.

“I know one Cuban that came here 15 years ago. A hard-working young boy, he was in the marine service when he left so he was definitely a political asylum person, and he is still waiting to get residency. He has no Cayman connection but he sure has made Cayman his home and also has made the Cubans proud. He works from morning till noon, almost every day of the week and has no criminal record, all good things to say about him and still only holds his Cuban passport as his only identification,” the source said.

There are many more good Cubans like this young man who don’t know what to do, and some are tired of trying with no results, she said. “It’s a hard situation for all of us that left our homeland to get here and live here and not get the opportunity to get adopted by Cayman as residents.”

The motion to resolve this issue was accepted by Government. “Whatever the resolution, we need to act,” declared Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, saying the situation could not remain as it was. “These people face definite difficulties because of the way the immigration law now works and there are no special exemptions for them.”

Tibbetts said Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson would be asked to examine the situation with a view to resolving it in their favour through an amendment to the Immigration Law or through directives. He said that Manderson was aware of the acute situation these people were in and he felt the government could usher in something similar to an amnesty period for affected Cuban residents to settle their immigration status.


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