Former Prime Minister the late Sir Lynden Pindling was indeed a prophet!
He said if you are not prepared to fight for your country, you don’t deserve it. Fifty years on, The Bahamas’ journey continues as it seemingly started. We remain in a socioeconomic battle over the question of immigration.
Did he not implement a mass round up in the mid 70s after he said register or risk deportation?
Now as we get ready to celebrate 50 years as a nation we also find that the prevailing narrative still remains the illegals among us and the real possible erosion of our culture and identity.
We will attempt to take the high road in this discourse. We will bring some scenarios to appreciate the situation.
There are obviously many more. Indeed, each of us can contribute our opinions on the dilemma.
At a shopping center on West Bay Street, a young grocery packer was sad. He was recently berated for his heritage. To make him feel better, another packer told him, “Don’t pay them no mind. I half Haitian too”.
You go to one of our most celebrated sites to fraternize and take visitors, the Fish Fry, but the staff are predominantly of a creole heritage but cooking Bahamian delicacies.
It is understood that many births at Princess Margaret Hospitals are to Haitian mothers. Are they documented?
Some of us “organic” Bahamians are abroad, practicing at the highest level, while abiding by stringent immigration laws.
Yes, some Bahamians are abroad illegally, but usually they are hiding from the law. And our numbers abroad in such numbers will never be enough to impart Bahamian culture where they are settling.
The same cannot be said of immigration into The Bahamas.
This is where the problem needs to take the higher platforms for discussion.
Certainly, one ought not to be identifying a single group, but realize that we have an illegal immigration problem.
Apart from the obvious, we have a burgeoning Asian population which no one seems to be taking note of. We always had an issue with Jamaicans. We now have those from the Philippines and South America, not to mention the Cubans.
Either we address the matter or realize that we will be celebrating our 100th anniversary with Haiti, and in creole.
What is needed is “managed” immigration in such a way that we accept that we aren’t able to secure our borders, and that we have tacitly accepted the US secret proposal for us to keep illegals and move towards establishing a community where we will accept another lingua franca.
Rather than promote creole perhaps we should establish English and French in all schools. Realizing that creole as in the other Francophone West Indian islands would become the street language.
Furthermore, I suggest we establish guidelines such that we bring in those professionals as we see being practised in other first world countries. Let us get the engineers, the teachers, the physicians, those who can/will position us a a stronger regional power.
Let us find ways to discourage the menial workers. Yes we would need laborers but this should be on the same pattern that our forefathers did on The Contract.
As for speaking of hatred to a particular group, that is far from the case. Many of us have brothers and sisters who are of Haitian, Jamaican and now even Cuban heritage.
We as a community don’t hate anyone more than any other, but when we see or feel that a particular group is out pacing the “organic” Bahamian then is it not to be expected that you will hear the people voice their concerns?
Don’t dismiss those concerns. Realize that we have to get a handle on it quickly, or we will see civil disruption.
We are at a critical juncture. We are just out of a COVID crisis which has significantly impacted our economy. Many are unemployed. Many have lost their homes.
When we as a country should be trying to contract and pool our resources to regain a strong footing, we now find ourselves having to dole out significant resources digging ourselves out of these economic holes to address a vexing but perpetual concern.
It is now reaching a tipping point where Bahamians feel that many undocumented persons seem to have and benefit from lack of oversight and apparent accommodation while they have to go through the rigorous and forbidding laws and processes.
The rules apply to the regulars but for some apparently unappreciated reason there seem to be tolerance to those who set up shanty town communities among us. Only one island, Long Island, seems to be immune from these infractions and we have to ask why?
And the frightening thing about them is that there is no adherence to town planning rules, no check on sanitation and no accountability of who or what goes on within these communities.
So to check or create balance, maybe we need to also consider opening the doors to the other ethnic communities so that we don’t experience an overrun by any particular group.
We have long lost the battle and we seem to have lost the fight to redeem our country.
We submit that either we as a country take the issue seriously or make structured accommodations to “manage” the immigration issue rather than move ahead by default.