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Mixed-status families in spotlight

Problems, complexities and possible solutions for mixed-status families were discussed in a public forum last night.

Held at Berkeley Institute from 6pm to 8pm, the session was organised by the Consultative Immigration Reform Working Group.

Its aim was to solidify definitions, answer questions and gauge public opinion on cases where members of the same family have been granted different legal statuses.

Working group member Rick Woolridge, a lawyer, said that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the right to family life”) would need to be balanced with the Bermuda Constitution.

“You can’t legislate love, but you have to look at what criteria make up a family,” he said.

“We also have to look to maintain, as much as we can, the Bermudian culture and flavour.

“What is the impact we’re talking about, on the workforce and the economy?”

Working group member Steven Todd revealed a list of suggestions submitted so far by the public.

This included the reinstatement of citizenship grants to children who were born in Bermuda or who arrived here before the age of 6, status grants to full siblings of Bermudians and their children, and considering life partners as spouses, regardless of gender.

Mr Todd underlined the importance of public opinion on the matter, and urged people to continue submitting their thoughts to the working group.

“It’s an opportunity for all of us to play our part in this process,” he said.

“Our ability to do a great job in making the recommendations will only be achieved through your ongoing participation.”

In what was a sometimes spirited Q&A session between attendees and the working group, matters such as whether quotas should be introduced divided the room.

Miguel Pereira, president of Vasco da Gama Club and the Portuguese Cultural Association, said that many families in the Portuguese community had struggled with mixed-status difficulties, creating “limbo” situations for some.

“I think if you’re born in your country, (citizenship) is your birthright. I think that’s something we need to look at,” he said.

However, another attendee argued that granting automatic citizenship to those born in Bermuda could “open the floodgates” in which people would become Bermudian despite having no real connection to the island. Further public discussions on mixed-status families will be held from 6pm to 8pm on October 11 (at Francis Patton Primary School), 12 (at Berkeley Institute) and 13 (at Dalton E. Tucker Middle School).

Suggestion submissions can be made by calling 500-4664, e-mailing immigrationbda@gmail.com or visiting the group’s drop box on the ground floor of the Government Administration Building on Parliament Street.

The findings will eventually be passed onto Government to draft immigration legislation.