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Campaigners fear ‘rushed’ immigration reform

Key issue: Wayne Caines aims to table legislation (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Campaigners for better treatment for mixed-status families and reform of immigration law fear that proposed legislation has been rushed and may not be tabled in the House of Assembly before it adjourns for the summer break.

A spokeswoman for Supporting Fair Immigration Reform said yesterday that legal amendments to help mixed-status families had been promised before the House rose for the summer.

The spokeswoman added: “With the minister’s last response that he aims to have it tabled seems to suggest that perhaps this is rushed, not fully complete, and may not even make it to this last sitting.

“We hope that the Government has taken into consideration all the varieties of mixed-status families and that this legislation encompasses all the types and not only certain ones.”

She was speaking after Mr Caines said on Tuesday that the Government’s “aim” was to table amendments to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 tomorrow.

But the legislation, if tabled, will not be debated tomorrow, which is expected to be the last House session before the summer break starts on July 31.

Mr Caines said this month that the legislation was to be tabled on July 12.

He declined to comment on Tuesday on the reasons for the delay and also declined to discuss the details of what the legislation would mean for mixed-status families.

The pressure group’s spokeswoman said that progress on immigration reform had moved at a “snail’s pace”.

She added: “We have seen deadlines come and go without any resolution or explanation why they were not met.

“We have no indication if this government is really working on immigration reform as it’s now three years since the March 2016 protests and the only topic that they seem to be comfortable with discussing is mixed-status families, which is the simplest section of immigration reform.”

The spokeswoman said that the group understood the slow progress on changes to mixed-status families was because of a lack of information.

But she added that the group did not understand the lack of progress on legal reform in other areas of immigration. The spokeswoman said: “This government has been provided with lots of information.

“There has been consultation with the public, two working groups set up, with one providing a report, and the minister has met key stakeholders and business leaders.”

She said that immigration reforms must include “all that are affected”.

The spokeswoman added: “We cannot have a repeat of families having different immigration status, people living in Bermuda 20 or more years, setting roots in Bermuda but not being able to have a pathway to some form of citizenship.”

Mr Caines said in January that the Government wanted “key elements” of immigration reform debated and passed in the House of Assembly before the end of this month.

He added in April that legislation on mixed-status families would be tabled in the summer.

Mr Caines said at the time: “We believe that by the end of this parliamentary session, we will definitely be able to have legislation that will go through the parliamentary process on mixed-status families.”

He declined to comment on SFIR’s fears yesterday.