Mixed-status families Bill crosses finish line
Immigration legislation to tackle the problem of mixed-status families and to give status to children born overseas to Bermudian parents was approved yesterday.
The measures were passed with support from both sides of the House of Assembly — but Opposition MPs from the bipartisan committee on immigration reform said they were disappointed that the legislation was not retroactive.
MPs from the ruling Progressive Labour Party and the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance highlighted the controversial history of the island's immigration policy.
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said the first legislation to make changes should not affect Bermudians and would tackle problems in ways that would not lead to the separation of families.
He added the changes would “assure Bermudians a place of primacy in their homeland”.
Ben Smith, an OBA MP and member of the immigration committee, told the House he looked forward to “getting back to work” on “the next phase”.
Mr Smith added: “There are some exciting parts that I know Bermuda is going to be interested in.”
Sylvan Richards, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs and the Environment, said the road to the legislation had been “long and winding”.
Mr Richards added that the lack of a retroactive element was “unfortunate”.
Christopher Famous, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher and also a committee member, spoke about the demonstrations that blocked Parliament four years ago over the OBA government's Pathways to Status legislation.
He said: “People marched because they remembered that immigration was used to propel those that arrived in Bermuda, primarily from the UK, ahead of those who lived here for centuries.”
Leah Scott, the deputy Opposition leader, told the House that she had been granted Bermuda status in 2007 as a long-term resident.
Ms Scott said Mr Caines had been “crestfallen” by some of the delays to the legislation, which was put on hold in July last year.
She added: “I am a bit disappointed it's not retroactive. It's selfish. I have a granddaughter that I would like to see get Bermuda status.”
Some children of permanent resident's certificate holders obtained their parents' status while others did not under earlier legislation.
Renée Ming, a PLP backbencher and another member of the bipartisan committee set up in 2016, said the group had learnt and evolved together on a topic that “can bring out the best in us and, at times, can bring out our worst as well”.
She added: “This committee and our government has the opportunity to change that. The bipartisan committee was a step in the right direction.”
Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker, said immigration was “a very sensitive, emotive topic for all Bermudians”.
He said: “When you're trying to get laws in place to do with immigration, it's not an easy one. It's never going to be easy, particularly with our history.”
Mr Burgess said the legislation would also allow children of permanent resident's certificate holders — a category introduced by the PLP — to obtain PRC status.