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PLP to start Island-wide immigration debate

Walton Brown

Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister for Immigration and External Affairs, said his party is to initiate an Island-wide conversation about the future of Bermuda’s immigration policy.

Mr Brown held a public forum at the Allen Temple AME Church, Sandys, last night in front of a full audience.

The Progressive Labour Party MP reiterated calls for “fundamental reform” of the law with regards to the granting of PRC and Bermudian status with his primary question being, “what kind of Bermuda do we want to create?”

Putting Bermuda’s immigration into a historical context, Mr Brown outlined the Island’s policies from an 1842 bill tabled in Parliament “to encourage emigrants coming to these islands from the United Kingdom,” up to the modern day.

He included voting rights that were granted to all British citizens during the ‘60s who resided on the Island for more than three years, and the issuance of up to 40 discretionary status grants annually up until the practice was abolished in 1989. He reminded the audience of the PLP move to grant PRC status to those living in Bermuda in July 1989 and the ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley to entitle those PRCs to apply for and receive Bermuda status.

He said more people would be granted status under the present law than would have been under discretionary status.

“The only vehicle now for anyone to get PRC status is the Job Makers Act — in my view that is fundamentally problematic because it means the guy who works in a kitchen here for 30 years can’t even apply. There is a bias and it is a bias that gives people who already have privilege even more privilege — rich, white men who are the face of international business. In the PLP we called for the removal of the category to allow for a proper formulation of policy.”

Mr Brown added: “We have to listen to you first of all. We have to ask how do we go about formulating policy — you can’t formulate policy by men and women sitting in a room and saying what needs to be done.

Policies should be in place that benefit the community. Questions need to be asked: are we to have further grants of PRC status? Who should be entitled? How many should we issue in any given year? What should the criteria be? Who should be eligible to Bermudian status, if anyone?

“Some may have a real issue with people who acquire citizenship in Bermuda who hold citizenship in another country who can vote to determine whether we become a sovereign state. We have to put that on the table for a matter of discussion.”

Having said that, Mr Brown added: “If we [the PLP] get in we will singularly revoke those aspects of legislation that we find problematic.”

Mr Brown also reiterated calls for a comprehensive database that would test the granting of work permits against Bermudians seeking employment. He also touched on the possibility of a model of commercial immigration, though not that proposed by immigration minister Michael Fahy which he said would only serve rich, white senior executives who are not the men directly creating jobs.