Addressing the illegal immigration problem

Dear Editor,

We have had an illegal Haitian problem for decades.

During the 1940s to the early 1960s, the emerging Bahama Islands, now the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, required massive foreign laborers (usually of Haitian background) for the agriculture industries principally in the Abacos, on Eleuthera and parts of Grand Bahama.

These islands, historically, have been inundated ever since with illegal and legal Haitian migrants and immigrants.

Now, having collectively allowed this almost unchecked situation to grow from a tiny infant into a huge monster, successive administrations have sought to solve the issue.

In the days of the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling, we had Loftus Roker who held sway at immigration. He took a hardline approach but, on balance, very little was accomplished.

In Hubert Ingraham’s heyday, he appointed several individuals to look into the Haitian problem.

Ingraham appointed Branville McCartney, the then Free National Movement (FNM) MP for Bamboo Town, as minister of state for immigration.

McCartney is a good man, I am sure but his public ego is a spectacle to behold. Having self confidence and suave, as we both have, is admirable, but one does not have to wear them on one’s shoulders.

His personal ambitions seemed boundless, as they should be, but McCartney sometimes, in my considered view, overrates himself. He resigned and left the FNM in a huff. Later he formed the Democratic National Alliance (DNA).

That entity had great promise and did well in the 2012 general election, receiving a little over eight percent of the votes.

This feat led to the demise of the Ingraham-led FNM and the return of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

Ingraham went into voluntary political retirement and, as current Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis blurted out while he was opposition leader, “The Ingraham era is over.”

Now it is being speculated that Minnis has reached into the political graveyard and may be resurrecting McCartney.

I would welcome his return, if it happens, but I would caution the PM and the FNM to keep McCartney on a tight leash. He has demonstrated his ability to break party ranks, while lambasting the same and its leadership cadre.

In my view, he has an ungrateful streak and may suffer from a mega ego. In addition, while he would bring color to a lackluster Cabinet, he would, I submit, leave the FNM before the end of this term in office. The big question, however, is: “What did he accomplish as minister of state for immigration?”

There will never be a viable solution to the so-called Haitian problem unless and until we address the following:

1. The elimination or reduction of shantytowns to the irreducible minimum;

2. A progressive and realistic approach to the vexing questions of work permits; residency and citizenship. If we have to amend the constitution, let’s do so and stop kicking the can even farther down the road.

We should not be talking about rounding up people willy-nilly, except if there is a gross breach of the criminal laws and/or national security issues. In addition, even when suspected illegals, inclusive of Haitians, are apprehended they are entitled to due process and an appearance in the courts.

3. An amnesty period into January 2020.

And so, the knuckleheaded policy announced by Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson and the administration relative to continuing roundups and deportations in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian is dead wrong and is an affront to decent Bahamians and the international community.

Everybody almost rushed to our assistance following killer Dorian. Strangers have been exceedingly kind and generous towards us.

Now we are displaying the darker nature of some Bahamians. Step back, Dr. Minnis, at least for the foreseeable future.

– Ortland H. Bodie Jr.

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