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McCartney wants law change on citizenship

Leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Branville McCartney said if his party is successful in winning the next general election, his administration would propose that the constitution be changed to prevent any child born to an illegal immigrant from ever being able to apply for Bahamian citizenship.

“We need to stop the bleeding,” McCartney told The Nassau Guardian.

“We have a law now that provides that illegals can come over to The Bahamas, have children and then those children can apply for citizenship.”

He said this is not a good idea.

“We can’t afford to continue doing that in this country.”

McCartney believes such a referendum would receive widespread support from the Bahamian people, many of whom are frustrated by the illegal immigration problem.

He said such a change to the constitution would only affect children born to illegal immigrants after the amendment is made.

“We would have to comply with the law (as it currently exists) and move to regularize those persons who are here now,” McCartney said.

Currently, a child born in The Bahamas to a non-Bahamian may apply for citizenship on his or her 18th birthday or in the 12 months that follow.

As a result, many children born to illegal immigrants have become Bahamian citizens.

“There is such an influx of illegals and they have children and their children now have a right to make certain applications,” McCartney said.

He pointed out that if a majority of Bahamians are not supportive of this view then such a constitutional amendment could not happen.

Elaborating on the need to regularize certain immigrants who are already here, McCartney said, “Many of these persons aren’t able to get jobs; many of these persons aren’t able to open up a bank account; many of these persons aren’t able to travel and it is very much to their disadvantage, so we need to move to deal with that as the law provides.”

McCartney, a former minister of state for immigration who resigned last year, said there is “a tremendous number” of people in this category.

Asked what would happen to the children of illegal immigrants should he be elected prime minister and succeed with such a referendum, he said, “We are not going to encourage illegal activity in The Bahamas.

“If you know you’re illegal, you are expecting to get a benefit from an illegal activity? That’s what’s happening quite frankly.”

McCartney said the referendum would not negatively impact children born to illegal immigrants who have Bahamian fathers.

The Nassau Guardian recently reported that a U.S. diplomatic cable obtained through the whistleblower organization WikiLeaks points to what many Bahamians have known for decades through anecdotal information: An “alarming” number of children are being born to Haitian women at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).

Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis informed The Guardian that of the approximately 5,000 babies who are born at PMH every year, about 600 are born to Haitian women.

Government officials rarely make public any information on Haitian birth rates.

In 2005, a report from the Ministry of Health highlighting the issue was made public.

That report showed that 76 or 63 percent of all babies born at the Marsh Harbour Clinic in 2003 were to Haitian mothers, while 45 or 38 percent were to Bahamian mothers.

According to that report, this was the first district in which the number of infants born to Haitians was greater than the number of infants born to Bahamians.

It was also revealed that of the 31 women who delivered at the Coopers Town Clinic in 2003, 51.6 percent were Bahamians and 48.4 percent were Haitians.

In the diplomatic cables, U.S. Embassy officials widely discuss the state of Haitians in The Bahamas.

“Many children of long-time Haitians living as Bahamian residents have become de facto stateless,” said one of the cables.

McCartney said the DNA will address these issues at a town meeting on the evening of August 3 at the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) hall on Farrington Road.

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