Mac makes case for Cubans

| 10/09/2008

(CNS): The serious immigration problems of a number of Cayman-Cubans were brought to the attention of the Legislative Assembly (LA) this week when Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush posed a Private Member’s Motion to regularise their status, as he said many of them were now being denied permanent residency because of the new law.

The UDP leader said on Monday 8 September in the LA that he had received representation from a number of legally resident Cubans who arrived in the 1990s when Cubans with local connections were allowed to migrate to Cayman.

Bush noted that there has been a connection between the countries for years and Caymanians still have families there. He explained that many of the Cubans who came were direct and immediate descendents of Caymanians who had migrated to Cuba when Cayman’s economic fortunes were not so great.  As times changed, however, andwith the mounting economic problems in Cuba these descendents of Cayman migrants had sought to return to their ancestral home and were invited to do so by the Cayman government.

He said more than 200 people had come to Cayman as a result of the invitation, and while the majority of them had sought permanent residency several years ago, some did not and many have continued living in Cayman without their legal position being regularised.

“They built homes, they purchased land, some of them have children, they have lived here among us believing themselves to be here legally and believing this to be their home,” added Bush. “Meanwhile the law has changed.” He said that many were now being denied by the Permanent Residency Board. “I can see no reason why they are being denied permanent residency and told they need to get work permits,” Bush noted. “I believe the government can find a way to remedy this situation.”

Government said it would accept the motion and Leader of Government Business Kurt 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. Tibbetts 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.

Tibbetts said he too had received representation from Cubans who complained that their invitation to Cayman was no longer valid because it was based on the previous Immigration Law, and under the current law they were being told that they do not meet the criteria for permanent residency. This has resulted in their being unable to travel, he said, since they can no longer use their Cuban passports and they have not been given Caymanian status.

“Whatever the resolution, we need to act,” added 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.”

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.

“We have other nationalities that are having difficulties with the law as it stands. These are people who have very close ties with Cayman,” he said. "In particular, with people from the Bay Islands in Honduras, these are our people. They even talk like us. They are talented and hard-working people,” said Bodden.

He went on to explain that in the past many Caymanians had migrated and that there tended to be a pattern, with the people from the West Bay area going to Cuba while East Enders migrated to Honduras and the Bay Islands, where, he said, there was a clear bond between the islands and the people. At the end of the short debate the motion was passed.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Cubans should get status. they work hard and deserve it.

  2. Knal N. Domp says:

    I would assume that the Cubans in question either arrived as illegal migrants (ending up in Tent City or hiding in the bushes long enough to escape detection) or as legal work permit-holders- and as such, must be bound by the historic and present laws of the Cayman Islands regulating their assimilation as legal residents. It is unacceptable that these Cubans should now receive treatment that is preferential to any other group of expatriate residents seeking status- why should they be treated more benignly than (say) Englishmen or Indonesian Molluccans? There is of course two important exceptions- Bay Islanders (Honduras) and Pine Islanders (Cuba) have strong familial ties with Caymanians and these are well-known and documented. "Special" treatment for applicants from previous residents of these islands should be appraised as any other historicCaymanian group seeking repatriation to the Cayman Islands- as rightly supported by Ozzie.

    For everyone else, Cubans included, stand in line…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good try Mr. Bush, but it is too late to redeem your gross mistake in relation to the vast number of unwarranted and undeserved status grants you and your Government executed. I’m not saying that there were not many good, deserving people amongst that number back in 2003, but we all know how that really went and what drove it. We have all witnessed the large number of dependents who have since flooded into our school, health care and social service systems. Not to mention the possibility that increased crime could be directly related.

    If at that time, Mr. Bush had focussed the majority of attention on granting status to the said Cuban Caymanians and our Honduras Bay Island brethren, he might still be leader of the country and our culture would be less at risk of being diluted. Ultimately, we would have likely given status to people who respect us as Caymanians and not those who take our status, and curse us at the same time.

    I’m sure the Cuban Caymanians appreciate this from a perspective of normalizing their habitation of Cayman but let them or anyone else not be fooled, Big Mac is simply politicking and he’s good at it.