Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd has called for calmer heads to prevail in the immigration debate that has raged since the passage of Hurricane Dorian in early September, warning that The Bahamas could get a black eye if it does not make a “most valiant effort to get it right” on the issue.
Boyd noted that the topic of immigration is an extremely hot topic worldwide, and Hurricane Dorian has pushed the issue to the forefront of the national agenda “all too suddenly, once again”.
“Some of the rhetoric and extreme language I have heard thus far, those supporting the migrants and those who are not, is extremely provocative, and not helpful to the cause of harmony in our country,” said Boyd, in his charge at the opening of the church’s 116th Synod at Christ Church Cathedral.
“We must be careful what we say and how we say it. Sensitivity must prevail. Even if what we say may be right, the time and the manner may not be right.”
The bishop added: “Bahamians must stop saying that Haitians in particular come and take while giving little or nothing to the country. This is simply not true.
“Whenever a person works or raises a family, that person adds value to a country, in return for which he/she receives certain things like well-being, goods and services.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that if we take the Haitian labor out of our country, The Bahamas would be all the poorer because Haitians are contributing in every area you can think of.”
Boyd added: “There are many aspects of the Haitian culture from which we could learn much. For example, the vast majority of them work extremely hard and not hang around on the streets begging like so many others do. Their work ethic is very good.
“They have a keen sense of family life and look after their children in the vast majority of cases. They attend PTA meetings, when many of us Bahamians do not; many of their children excel academically because that is a priority in their homes.
“My brothers and sisters, let us be honest and realistic, and let us find ways to live together in peace and harmony as God, who made us all, would have it.”
The bishop suggested the establishment of a board or authority “to monitor our handling of this extremely sensitive matter”.
He said this entity could be comprised of representatives appointed from the chamber of commerce, the Bahamas Christian Council, the official opposition, labor, social services and the Office of the Attorney General, among others.
“In a post-hurricane environment like now and in ordinary times such an entity is a necessity,” Boyd said.
He suggested the authority could have various tasks: visit the Detention Center and various shelters housing migrants; investigate reports of mistreatment of or discrimination against migrants; address any bad behavior of shelter residents; hear concerns related to delays in applications for citizenships and permanent residency in particular; and advise the government proactively on areas of potential concern.
“This list is by no means exhaustive, but I want to make the point that, as concerns arise in these areas, the body ought to be able to advise and to speak to the issues,” Boyd said.
“I am convinced that a report produced by such an entity would be considered more credible by the international community in particular than if given by a government official.”
The bishop added: “We would all want to get this right as we work to secure our borders, as well as to treat humanely the migrants in our midst, whether they are documented or not…”
The way people treat others is a mark of “true Christianity”, he said.