OBA accuses government of immigration reform hypocrisy
The Opposition One Bermuda Alliance has accused Government of back-pedalling on immigration reform for political gain.
Jarion Richardson, the OBA shadow minister for Immigration, spoke out after Government on Monday announced that non-Bermudian long-term residents would be eligible to stay on the island indefinitely by qualifying for Permanent Residency Certificates.
The changes affect a slew of resident non-Bermudians, including: people who arrived in Bermuda at an early age and are normally resident in Bermuda; non-Bermudians who have continuously lived in Bermuda for 20 years ; divorced or unwed parents of Bermudian children; and children of second generation Permanent Resident Certificate-holders who have been ordinarily resident in Bermuda.
Jason Hayward, the minister of labour, yesterday said the new legislation will give long-term residents who had contributed to the island deserved “some level of security to enable them to remain“.
Last night, Mr Richardson said the former OBA Government had tried to push through similar legislation five years ago – but was smothered by a PLP backlash that resulted in strikes and a gag on Parliamentary debate.
Mr Richardson said: “In March 2016, Parliament was going to debate the One Bermuda Alliance’s proposed comprehensive immigration reform. It was called Pathways to Status.
“It was to be debated by the elected representatives of Bermuda pursuant to the Constitution.
“The Progressive Labour Party and People’s Campaign called for an island-wide withdrawal of labour and blocked the sitting and functioning of Parliament.”
Mr Richardson acknowledged that the new policy was “a step that Bermuda needs to take” in order to boost a declining population and shore up the economy.
But he added: “As much as this one step is commendable, it is overshadowed by our recent history of democracy being swept aside for power.
“Bermuda was subsequently deprived of the skills and labour needed to reduce the pain of our economic downturn. We could have had job creation, circulation of new money and increased social programmes.
“Instead, the problem was successfully politicised. To our detriment, a hypersensitive though critical national issue was bent to achieve a political outcome.
“Have there been historical wrongs in immigration policy? Yes. Did Ministerial discretion permit abuse? Yes.
“Is the topic sensitive and requiring the delicate balances of interests? Yes. Has an alternative to Pathways been presented for debate? No.
“Deprivation of residency rights leading to citizenship has cost the people of Bermuda. Fear was used to isolate and reject.
“This newly-announced policy change is only one of many steps Bermuda needs to take to stop the financial bleeding caused by failed policies. Those steps will have to be taken and the sensitivities must be navigated.
“But like all things in Bermuda, once politicised, it only made things worse.”