Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell said yesterday that he believes the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, 2018, should be separated into three different bills.
Mitchell said the draft bill “puts into my view three separate and distinct subjects that ought to be treated by separate bills”.
“The bill is actually called the Nationality, Immigration, Asylum Bill,” Mitchell said outside the Senate.
“I think that the first thing is, I would be arguing for separate bills on any of those subjects so that when they come to the House they are dealt with as separate issues.
“I don’t think one ought to be mixed up with the next.”
The bill, drafted by the Law Reform Commission, proposes sweeping changes to the country’s immigration laws in an attempt to fix the long-standing problem of statelessness and the rights of Bahamians to pass on their citizenship.
The bill, now out for public consultation, has faced criticism from some activists who expressed concern that the new legislation would restrict the rights of people in The Bahamas facing citizenship issues.
“I’m not so sure that there’s any mischief in here to cure, except it’s a very sexy issue politically for activists to make a lot of mischief out of it,” he said.
“There are a lot of miscreants who are creating discord in this country over these citizenship issues.
“There’s no agenda as far as depriving anybody who has a right, because it’s pretty clear after the Darcy Ryan case against the attorney general, what the powers of the government are with regard to citizenship and how they have to act fairly towards anybody who applies for citizenship.
“So the issue is really administrative as far as I’m concerned, and all the necessary changes that were needed to be done to give people a status who were born here to foreign parents, I think those have been done.
“People just simply have to follow the law.”
The constitution says people born in The Bahamas after independence to non-Bahamian parents are entitled, “upon making application on his attaining the age of eighteen years or within twelve months thereafter, to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas”.
However, it is silent on what happens before their 18th birthday or after their 19th birthday.
The new law would also establish that these people lose their constitutional right to be registered after their 19th birthday.
Article 9 of the constitution states that a person born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian mother is not automatically granted citizenship, but has a right to apply from their 18th birthday to their 21st birthday, to be registered as a citizen.
The constitution is also silent on what happens before these people reach age 18 and after they reach age 21.
The new law would also establish that these people lose their constitutional right to be registered after their 21st birthday.
However, the new law establishes a “right of abode”, or a right to live, in The Bahamas for anyone born in The Bahamas to foreign parents while they are a minor – before they reach age 18.
And a right to abode while their application is being processed.