Bermudians-first immigration mantra repeated
Bermudians must come first in any changes to the immigration law, the national security minister said yesterday.
Wayne Caines said: “All reform must centre around the premise of Bermudians having a place of primacy in their homeland.
“We believe any and all immigration reform should increase opportunities for Bermudians.”
He was speaking after the Supporting Fair Immigration Reform group questioned the pace of change last week.
Mr Caines said in January that he hoped to have “key elements” of immigration reform debated and passed in the House of Assembly by the end of July.
The advocacy group, which formed during 2016 protests over the One Bermuda Alliance government's plans for changes to immigration law, criticised the “endless consultation” over immigration.
Mr Caines has vowed to introduce legislation this summer on mixed-status families — a pledge from the Throne Speech last November.
Cases of mixed status include families where one parent holds Bermuda status or a permanent resident's certificate, while a spouse or children do not — despite being born on the island.
Mr Caines said the ministry was now “in the data-gathering phase and legislation for this amendment will be presented to the House during the summer session”.
He has also unveiled plans to make changes to work-permit categories to strike “the right balance between the legitimate expectations for Bermudians and the labour needs of businesses”.
Mr Caines said yesterday that he appreciated the concerns raised by the group and that he wanted to “assure Bermuda that Government recognises the importance of immigration reform”.
He added the bipartisan parliamentary committee for immigration reform, set up in October 2017, was still examining “policy issues around reform”.
The committee, headed by Mr Caines, is made up of Progressive Labour Party MPs Renée Ming and Christopher Famous, and OBA MPs Ben Smith and Leah Scott.
Mr Caines said the committee looked at “the various immigration efforts” and Cabinet would decide on “all-new policy and legislative changes”.
He added the review of work permits was aimed at tightening restrictions on categories “where it appears that there may be Bermudians capable of filling those posts”.
Mr Caines said comprehensive immigration reform was “a work in progress” that would be “phased in and executed systematically”.
He added: “The timetable will be announced when it is practicable.”