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Mitchell Defends Random Immigration I.D. Checks

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell yesterday defended a recent random identification check on the Eastern Road by immigration officers.

The check saw 105 people arrested, 22 released, $37,000 collected in outstanding fees and 83 people committed to the detention centre.

Mr Mitchell addressed statements made by Shadow Immigration Minister Hubert Chipman calling on the government to apologise to Bahamians who were profiled.

Mr Mitchell said: “If the opposition spokesman has a specific name or names and complaint or complaints then he should bring them to the attention of the director of immigration. There is no policy of profiling.

“The constitutional standard is clear that there must be reasonable suspicion of violating immigration laws. It is the policy of immigration to be sensitive to civil liberties and the implications of their work. That said, immigration is a law enforcement exercise and is a blunt instrument.”

On Wednesday, immigration officers blocked traffic in Eastern New Providence in an attempt to round up illegal immigrants.

From that search, according to the minister, 75 male and eight female immigrants were detained.

There were six Venezuelans; nine Ecuadorian men, two Peruvian women; six Jamaican men and two Jamaican women, 54 Haitian men and two Haitian women.

The officers stopped motorists and passengers and requested that they provide a form of identification.

It was unclear why some were targeted and others were not.

Speaking with The Tribune, Mr Chipman said he supports attempts at solving the illegal immigration problem in the Bahamas, but that ‘profiling’ people is “a violation of civil liberties”.

“I think the government should apologise to those people who were profiled,” he said.

“What does a Bahamian look like? How the hell you know that’s a Haitian? I’ve heard many times people say, that’s a Haitian, you see how he look. How could you say that?”

Mr Chipman also criticised the manner in which the search was conducted.

Mr Mitchell said: “The public was previously advised that they had to be mindful of the possible civil liberties implications when demanding aggressive enforcement.

“The idea of national identity cards has been mooted. The idea of making birth certificates more secure by requiring footprints of newborns is also mooted. The opposition cannot have it both ways.”

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