Haitians have rights too!

Dear Editor,

The attorney general has no statutory jurisdiction to make any public announcement about the legality or illegality of a person’s immigration status in The Bahamas.

That was pure political posturing.

The law of The Bahamas does not permit for a blanket, arbitrary and non-discrete treatment of a person’s rights.

Each person who has been issued a work permit has a right to be in The Bahamas until the expiration of the work permit.

In certain circumstances pursuant to the Immigration Act, a work permit may be revoked or canceled or surrendered.

Each person’s circumstances are different.

It is a matter between the employer, who obtains the work permit for the employee, and the director of immigration.

The fact that a storm has hit the Abacos does not thereby bring to an end work permits.

That statement by the attorney general was puerile, to say the least. It was pandering to the xenophobic Haitian lynch mob and is of absolutely no legal effect.

So, unless an employer goes to the director of immigration and says, “I would like to terminate the permit because I am no longer able to or wish to employ this particular employee,” then the work permit remains in place until its expiry date.

Alternatively, if certain circumstances which are set out in the Immigration Act come to the attention of the director of immigration, with respect to a specific employer and a specific work permit holder employee, then the director of immigration has certain statutory powers that he can invoke, with proper notice to the employer and the work permit holder, and take such action as the law permits.

The director of immigration is also unable to legally wave a magic wand canceling all permits generally that had been issued to employers and their employees in the Abacos.

Any suggested purported non-discreet and non-individual exercise of powers by the director of immigration under the Immigration Act would be void, illegal and of no effect.

As a matter of fact, I cannot recall the director of immigration ever having acted in such a fashion in The Bahamas, and it would certainly be a very new and surprising exercise of power.

Accordingly, none of the persons who received work permits, and which permits have not expired, are illegal.

In any event, no person is “an illegal”.

According to the law of The Bahamas, every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

So, to refer to people as “illegal” is to label them with an unwarranted and unconstitutional political characterization.

Furthermore, a person remains innocent until he or she is proven guilty in a court of law after a fair trial.

And even after that happens, a person is not “an illegal”, the person simply has a conviction with respect to a specific offense.

At all times, every “person” whether they are a citizen of The Bahamas or not, remains clothed with all of the protective constitutional and human rights provisions of Chapter 3 of the constitution of The Bahamas.

Haitians, Haitian-Bahamians and citizens-in-waiting, have rights too.

For the benefit of the attorney general, I wish to awaken him to the constitutional reality that Hurricane Dorian did not magically take away all of the rights of persons of Haitian ethnic origin in the Abacos.

Despite his political wishful thinking to the contrary, Haitians have rights too.

— Fred Smith, QC

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