President of the League of Haitian Pastors Dr. Jean Paul Charles said yesterday that they support the government’s proposed new immigration laws but would like to see an extension of the timeline to register for status after the law takes effect.
Under the government’s proposed new immigration laws, those who were born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973 to parents who were not Bahamian, and failed to apply to be registered as citizens by their 19th birthday, would lose that right and would have six months after the law takes effect to apply for some form of status or risk being deported.
Charles said while the League of Haitian Pastors supports the proposed laws, there has been some worry in the Haitian community about how individuals born in The Bahamas to Haitian parents will be impacted.
“I think we are working on our side to see if they can extend that by a year or something like that,” he said of the timeline.
Charles added: “For now, we are educating the population, the Haitian population on what is going to be law and that they have to meet that deadline.”
Currently, Article 7 of The Bahamas constitution states that a person born in The Bahamas after independence, “neither of whose parents is a citizen of The Bahamas shall be 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”.
The constitution is silent on what happens to these individuals before their 18th birthday, or after their 19th birthday.
Charles was asked if he believed the proposed laws would stem the flow of illegal migration of Haitians into The Bahamas.
He responded by saying the laws would hopefully deter people who did “bad things in Haiti” from coming to The Bahamas.
“They have to go somewhere else [and] not [come] to The Bahamas because if they catch them in The Bahamas, they will send them back to Haiti,” Charles said.
He added: “Those bad guys from Haiti, they cannot take [The] Bahamas as a safe haven.
“They know when they come here, when the government gets with them, they will maybe put them in jail and get with the Haitian government to send them back to Haiti to get under the judgement or to go to prison.”
Charles said the proposed laws will quash the notion Haitian migrants may have of living “under the curtain” in The Bahamas.
“Now, people know we are connected with one world,” he said.
“Even people used to go to the Dominican Republic. In Haiti, they used to use that as a safe haven but now, not anymore. When they cross over, they send them back. Let them now pay their penalty or respect other people’s right to live in their own country.”
Under the proposed Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, 2018, any person who assists in illegal landing in The Bahamas or the harboring of illegal entrants into The Bahamas would face stiff penalties, including imprisonment.
The proposed law has a provision that makes a person liable to a fine and or a prison sentence for assisting, organizing, facilitating or providing material support or resources for securing entry or continued residence into the country of any person who they know has no entitlement to enter or remain in the country.