YOUNG MAN'S VIEW
By ADRIAN GIBSON
AS THE summer heat bears down upon us, so it seems does the unbearable influx of illegal immigrants, for as to quote a Bahamian song, “they coming by boat, they coming by plane, some coming in wheel chair and walking with cane.” Of course, for those familiar with the song, they aren’t coming to “see Theresa, the Bahamian Mona Lisa!”
These days, thousands of illegal Haitians, Jamaicans, Chinese, Europeans and Dominicans are invading our territorial boundaries. Although Jamaicans, Europeans, Dominicans and the Chinese migrate illegally in much smaller numbers, we must ensure that they do not become the forgotten illegal immigrants, who are eventually emboldened to operate with impunity.
More than any other group of immigrants, hordes of illegal Haitians stealthily make the trek up the Bahama Island chain, sometimes with the assistance of treasonous Bahamian boat captains/sailors. Just this week, about 100 illegal Haitian immigrants were apprehended. However, if much of the RBDF’s meager resources were primarily focused on one area of New Providence during the last apprehension exercise, can you imagine how many illegals would have entered town if several, say three or four, rickety boats had docked at different entry points with only one of them being arrested?
In recent years, the immigrant tide has been swelling with the large exodus of boat people from a land of stifling poverty. Haiti has failed to complete its transition from a tradition-based society to a social and economic modernity. It has instead become a nation crippled by coups, a hotbed of tyranny and political instability and a nation whose citizens have emigrated in mass to become an economic/social millstone around the necks of neighbouring countries.
Haiti’s leaders have left their countrymen to languish in a state of unspeakable poverty. The Haitian economy/society is in tatters due to misrule and its poor governance since its bloody assumption of Independence more than 200 years ago. The despotic rule of politicians, who abused power and ripped-off the national treasury in their voracious bid to enhance their personal fortunes, have fuelled emigration from Haiti and caused it to come to be seen as the Western Hemisphere’s hungriest and perhaps most tragic independent state. In many instances, much of Haiti’s misfortune is self-inflicted, through centuries of corruption, grotesque violence and mismanagement.
For many Haitians, the Bahamas is a gateway to their pursuit of happiness and a better life and/or a passageway to America. Illegal immigrants, of all nationalities, are a strain on this country’s safety nets. While most Bahamians exhibit a prickliness about illegal immigrants, sadly, many of them appear to have become indifferent and accustomed to bad news on immigration.
Indiscipline, corruption, speculation and bureaucratic inertia are the four main vices weighing down our society/economy, and it’s ever more apparent in our wishy-washy, self-serving outlook on combating illegal immigration. It is high-time we enunciate a clear strategy in our fight against this social plague.
Similar to the bush people of Africa, we have the bush people of the Bahamas, who populate the bushes of Cowpen Road, Carmichael Road, Fox Hill and Adelaide. Anyone who wanders deep enough into these bushy enclaves would stumble upon sprawls of squalor, as camps of squatters occupy clapboard huts jammed together without sanitation—no doubt also creating a breeding ground for disease. In the bush, these illegal immigrants pay no rent or property tax, no national insurance, no water or phone bills and no electricity charges—many times running drop-cords from one end of the bush to another. Sometimes, these persons do pay unscrupulous Bahamians, who threaten to alert the authorities or purport to own the land on which they squat, $50 or more per week/month. Wasn’t there a move afoot a few years ago to demolish all new shanty homes in Marsh Harbour? Did that ever come to fruition? These firetraps do not adhere to the government’s building codes nor do illegals have permission from the relevant agencies for building permits or the use of Crown Land, right?
While I’m empathetic to their plight and desperation, it is not feasible for our country’s survival if it’s overrun by parasitic foreign elements—illegal migrants.
If the immigration department really wants to conduct an audit of Haitian nationals living here, it should start by launching hiking expeditions, rambling through the bushes of Cowpen, Carmichael, Fox Hill, Exuma and Abaco. In the bushes is where the real answers lie! If this department is serious about flushing out illegal immigrants, it would check the bushes and locate the remote, dusty villages that are stashed away in the rough, shrub terrain of certain parts of the Bahamas. Bush raids and raids on suspected business places would undoubtedly net thousands of illegal immigrants. Gun-toting Immigration and Defence Force officers should also mount roadblocks in areas suspected of being heavily populated by immigrants—this would also discourage legal residents from harbouring their illegal countrymen.
Immigration officials must spend more time carrying out follow-ups and spot checks to ensure that if work permits have expired and are not being renewed, that these former holders of work permits would have departed the country. As it relates to many other foreign nationals, immigration officers should check the status of those persons holding white-collar positions at private/commercial banks, accounting firms, hotel management and those Chinese restaurants/food stores.
Illegal immigration had unquestionably also brought a streak of nastiness and criminality. According to a source at the prison, “there is a rising number of Haitian-Bahamians, Haitians and other immigrants in prison for violent crimes.” It is safe to assume that a good percentage of the street violence being perpetrated today is by disfranchised Haitian-Bahamians who are stateless, bitter and feel rejected by the only society that they know.
In many instances, these individuals are unable to obtain good jobs, travel overseas or obtain a college degree as the odds are stacked against them and their lack of status is an overriding impediment to their upward social mobility.
Has COB modified its policy that required Bahamian-born students, who did not possess proof of citizenship, to pay the rate of non-Bahamians and therefore spend twice as much time saving as they are also handicapped when trying to attain scholarships? Has this preventable privation many students have faced due to the ineptitude of the immigration officials and the inflexible, apathetic stance of COB representatives, been ironed out?
After proper and reasonably timed vetting, citizenship should be granted to the qualified offspring of immigrants born here, therefore allowing them to integrate and have a greater appreciation for and an allegiance to this country.
Although the Bahamas has a distinct cultural identity and a stable Parliamentary democracy, our society has the bearings of a peaceful melting pot that should unquestionably answer questions about assimilation and national identity for those who feel disfranchised.
In order to combat the illegal migration quagmire that our country has for so long been bogged down with, we must refocus our efforts on apprehending of ALL illegals—not discriminating—and offering rewards/bounties to anyone willing to give information (snitch) as to the whereabouts of illegal migrants as well as those people hiring and assisting them.
We must also serve to protect immigrants from exploitation by police officers and conduct stings and fire crooked immigration/defence force officers, while also protecting legal immigrants from exploitation for slave wages or sex. I’m told that some persons brought into households as baby sitters, housekeepers and maids—Filipinos, Jamaicans, etc—are quite frequently blackmailed for sexual favours, especially if their work permits are up for renewal.
Bahamian citizens and consecutive governments have taken too much of a blasé approach to illegal immigration, now and then bleating and griping about the problem but failing to act, many times even hiring a “my Haitian” to perform tasks for little to no pay.
When will the US cease its unfair policies on immigration and grant the same wet foot/dry foot policy granted to the Cubans to the Haitians? Why are the Haitians not afforded the same privilege? Could it be race related?
Over the years, the spavined political approach to the immigration crisis has given little hope. Avaricious politicians who spend time bloviating and using immigration as a political prop to arouse the passions of the electorate every campaign season should cease this sick, politically expedient practice and offer real solutions. The hypocrisy of these same politicians who mouth platitudes about stamping out illegal immigration from a political platform every five years leaves me, and definitely most discerning Bahamians, frothing at the mouth. Much more can be done to advance immigration reform.
As we face gloomy economic times, the government should also look at reserving deportations by plane for longer distances and deport illegals from this region to their Caribbean homesteads on mail boats or barges.
Mass illegal immigration is a Frankenstein-type monster that, if not properly handled, will inevitably turn and devour nearly every aspect of our identity. We must realize that in our response to all illegal immigration, we are serving as custodians of our cultural beliefs. Indeed, we do live in an age of globalization and must cope with a global society — just not illegals.
Yes, let’s let tolerance and enforcement co-exist with compassion and toughness as we combat this ever growing problem. I do not propose bigotry or xenophobia—only that we reclaim our birthright and protect our national identity before it’s lost!