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‘Don’T Use Child As A Passport’

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

IMMIGRATION Director William Pratt yesterday warned migrants not to attempt to use their children as a “passport” to illegally reside in the Bahamas.

Firing back at criticism of Saturday’s apprehension exercises, Mr Pratt explained that several children picked up over the weekend had been abandoned by their guardians, some who had left the minors in the home with a stove on.

He praised officers for taking the minors into protective custody, and urged the public to evaluate both sides before condemning officials.

Mr Pratt confirmed that 228 Haitians were repatriated from the Carmichael Road Detention Centre on two Bahamas Air flights yesterday. He estimated that there were some 100 persons still at the facility.

He said that spot checks throughout the country will continue in an attempt to rid the country of illegal immigrants.

“On social media they are showing photos of Immigration officers lifting up a child, I commend my officers on taking the children into protective custody,” he said.

“They (officers) went to the home, and the parents or guardians fled the scene and left a pot on the stove. They left the children unattended and I applaud them (the officers) because if we walked off and something happened to the kids, if a fire occurred, then they would blame the Department of Immigration.

“The officers did an excellent job of taking them into protective custody for parents to collect them, and the parents came,” he added.

“Hear the other side of the story, the officers handled it in decency and in order.”

The handling of minors has been a major concern after images and video of children being led away by Immigration officers spread over social media over the weekend.

In one of the videos, which was circulated online, a child in a soiled diaper was seen in the arms of an Immigration officer.

Yesterday, Mr Pratt could not confirm the number of children at the centre; however, he said that women and children were given priority during repatriation.

“People are taking it (the pictures) out of context,” he said.

“You can’t just see an officer holding a child and say we’re grabbing children arbitrarily and throwing them in the bus. If we go to the house and a female is there and is illegal, she would be arrested and the children will have to go with her.

“Having a child in the Bahamas is not a passport to remain illegal in the Bahamas. Under my watch, that will not happen. What we want them to do is to regularise themselves, get themselves sorted out if they want to remain in the Bahamas, that’s all we’re saying.

“They (illegal migrants) believe if they have a child, that they have an automatic right to remain here, that is not so.”

Mr Pratt explained that the repatriation of children born in the Bahamas to illegal immigrants did not forfeit their right to apply for citizenship at the age of 18, adding that the children were not stateless because they assumed the nationality of their parents.

Responding to claims that schoolchildren were apprehended last week, Mr Pratt maintained that officers did not go into schools. However, he said that some parents notify officers that they have children, and in these cases, they are escorted to collect students at the end of the school day.

“Most of the times they (migrants) don’t tell us they have children,” he said, “because they feel that this will cause the child to be deported as well. They just contact next of kin and let them know.”

He pointed out that not every person that is held at the detention centre is deported, adding that some persons are picked up because they are delinquent in permit fees and released once the matter is settled.

As he defended his 39-year tenure at the Immigration Department, Mr Pratt said: “We’re going to continue to do spot checks in every district, on every island. If we suspect anyone, we will interrogate them, and if they are illegal they will be taken into custody. It will continue as long as there are illegal immigrants, we are not targeting any specific nationality, it is any and every nationality, if you are here illegally you are subject to be arrested and deported.”

He added: “It’s an international detention centre, we sometimes have Canadians and Americans there, we don’t believe in discrimination against colour or nationality.”

Saturday’s round up of illegal immigrants coincided with the start of the government’s new immigration policies.

Comments

ThisIsOurs 3 years, 5 months ago

I agree. I didn't see anything in the picture that would indicate children were mistreated. It's a given that the children would be afraid, they saw their parents run away in fear. In reference to the child with the dirty diaper, not to be callous, but how long was the diaper dirty before the officers arrived?

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duppyVAT 3 years, 5 months ago

So............ noone was paying attention to what the US did when all dem Latino children came cross their borders??????????? We gatta stop letting dese ppl put some kind of guilt trip on us. Illegal means illegal whether child or man or granny.

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Emac 3 years, 5 months ago

I think people are beginning to see behind the guise of the Haitian community. They love to paint this picture of them being the victims and everyone else is the bad guy. Pratt is right on target with this one. These leeches have been popping out children like mad with the misconception that their offspring will allow them some footing in the Bahamas. I have witnessed adults running and leaving children to fend for themselves. These people should be charged with child endangerment.

What really exacerbates the problem is the fact that the Haitian Ambassador to the Bahamas and other officials of Haiti are doing absolutely nothing to help improve their people's plight. My God! Form some kind of mission to look after the children of the illegals that were captured-Educate your people about the hardship that comes with having many children in other people country. Introduce some form of contraceptive to your people! Don't just stand around and complain when you see the Bahamas begin making a move to protects its sovereignty. I mean at some point you have to get up and notice something must be amiss if every country in the region are beginning to complain about your people.

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TheMadHatter 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Pop a condom - get a free passport. It's better in the Bahamas.

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holls40 3 years, 5 months ago

It's about time that the Bahamian government do something about this problem!... I am a Bahamian who lives abroad, whom recently returned from Bahamas after 16 months. I left because I felt like I was in another country, I am very concern about my country's future. I too, am passionate about the immigration problem in the Bahamas, Why? because it impacts all Bahamians whether residing in the Bahamas or abroad. I like others have travelled to many countries and there not question the 'law of those countries'. Whiles I don't just want to focus on Haitians nationals as am quite certain there are some illegal Jamaicans, Chinese, Canadians, Dominicans, Cubans and many other nationals that are in the Bahamas. IT IS ALL OF OUR DUTIES AS BAHAMIANS TO DO THE RIGHT THING, TO PROTECT OUR BORDERS....

In closing my final word is " If you don't like the laws of the Bahamas, then leave period!

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holls40 3 years, 5 months ago

IT IS NOT A RIGHT TO BE GRANTED A BAHAMIAN PASSPORT, IT IS A PRIVILEGE!!

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JB357 3 years, 5 months ago

I don't hate Haitians, but for the first time in a long time we are finally getting aggressive with them. It's about time!!!

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pablojay 3 years, 5 months ago

When you see parents running and leaving their children behind, just to stay in this country, that should tell every Bahamian what a WONDERFUL COUNTRY THE BAHAMAS IS ! It is incumbent upon all of us too keep it so and controlling illegal immigration goes a long way in doing so.

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duppyVAT 3 years, 5 months ago

Any country that does not enforce its immigration laws AND assimilate its immigrant population is doomed to have social strife. Think of the countries in the world with homogenous populations like most Asian and N. European countries and it makes sense that these are the most advanced countries with the highest standards of living. US is not in the top 20 and it is easy to see why we will be facing challenges for the foreseeable future.

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John 3 years, 5 months ago

Today i came out the bank and my car didnt start. After trying a few things I still couldnt get it to start so I had to call a tow truck. And while I was waiting I couldnt help but about what must be going through the minds of a Haitian parent who has spent years in this country. Now she has been given a minutes notice to leave. She has no money for a ticket for herself but what makes it worse is she now has tow or three children she has to take with her ...to a desolate land they have never even dreamed about. So she will have to give away everything she has spent years to accumulate here in the "it is better for white folks" Bahamas and take her children back to Haiti to sleep on the ground and probably to eat dirt...John 3:16

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jackbnimble 3 years, 5 months ago

I am constantly amazed at how people continue to post these kinds of comments.

Please forgive my ignorance and explain how someone can enter a country illegally and produce children and then expect not to be deported (with those children) if they are caught.. How do you equate wanting a better life with breaking a country's laws to do so? What am I missing here?

Why do people always try to justify wrong because in their minds their greater need to survive somehow makes that wrong action right?

So the fact that you were in a country illegally 'for years' and you have become accustomed to this new life now makes it "unchristian" for the country to deport you because you have children who do not know the country you left - albeit you entered the country you currently reside in illegally without knowing that country, its culture or its people? You did know, however, that you were breaking the law and that you risked deportation if caught.

Boy I've got to read my Bible again.

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SP 3 years, 5 months ago

Haitians came here with less than nothing, couldn't speak the language, had nowhere to live, had no relatives here, brought children with them and did just fine.

Why is it you bleeding heart white Bahamians think those same Haitians cannot go back to Haiti with their Haitian children the land of their ancestry, where they have relatives, speak the language, fit in with the culture, and can eat dirt like all the rest their people.

White Bahamians never once complained about Haitians because white Bahamians prefer the "nigger boy grins", servitude and "yes boss" they get from Haitians. Black Bahamians don't put up with that shit!

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Emac 3 years, 5 months ago

@Jacknimble: You must understand that illegals do not see the wrong in entering a country and wreaking havoc on a society by breaking all the rules. As a matter of fact, they play the sympathy card very well. These people are ignorant to say the least. They don't follow rules and they don't respect law. And I am not saying this to be mean. I am just stating facts. Everyone knows that an ignorant mind is a dangerous mind. If you give these people an inch they will take 20 miles. They are selfish, rude and have no regard for anyone else or anything. This attitude is embedded in the majority of Haitians! It is apart of their culture. Besides, If you let someone get by with something for a very long time, they will feel that they are entitled to it. In order to reverse this trend, the Bahamas needs to embark on a mass campaign. We must hammer in their heads that having kids in the Bahamas does not guarantee the parent or the child permanent stay in the Bahamas. There is no other way to bring this message across. Fred Mitchel is certainly moving in the right direction. But an aggressive campaign is needed to show illegals and that there is a new day in the Bahamas. The Haitian officials could care less about enlightening their people about any new policies affecting their lives. So it becomes our job to do so.

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jackbnimble 3 years, 5 months ago

I agree with you but what gets me is the bleeding hearts who visit these blogs to attempt to make us feel bad for enforcing our laws. They make this worse by sympathizing and aiding and abetting the behavior of illegals. I'm sorry but my loyalty to my country and protecting its borders far surpasses any compassion I have for illegals. In my opinion there are just too many of them.

There is petition that is being circulated online at change.org to have our Constitution amended to put a stop to the children of illegals who continue to assert a right to citizenship because they were born here. I strongly suggest all right-thinking Bahamians sign it.

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DEDDIE 3 years, 5 months ago

Constitution 101. Never use the constitution to solve a problem because as problems comes up you will find the need to use the constitution again. The key to the immigrant problem is to move the Defence Force base to Inagua and do proper survellance. What so dum about this exercise is next month they will be right back. Get excited when they plug the leak not when they remove some water.

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SP 3 years, 5 months ago

....................Dominican Republic defies International Court & deports Haitians..........................

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/dominican-republic-withdrawal-top-regional-human-rights-court-would-put-rights-risk-2014-11-06

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SP 3 years, 5 months ago

.......Sign the petition to stop the Haitian invasion and change Article 7 of the Constitution.........

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-the-haitian-invasion-of-the-bahamas.html

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