By NICOLE BURROWS
IT comes as no surprise that the people with the loudest voices, with the most brazen of accusations about The Bahamas’ approach to the management of illegal immigrants and our level of “inhumanity” and “unChristianness” in the country are, in fact, not Bahamian, and/or are not living/have not lived in or near to the end results of illegal immigration in a small country of islands like ours.
Rarely are these big-mouthed voices the voices of Bahamians, particularly the kind of Bahamians who are still struggling in The Bahamas to make decent lives for themselves, so that they don’t also feel the need to illegally inundate someone else’s country.
Illegal immigration sympathisers hit below the belt with insults about our lack of compassion, or lack of Christianity, and it is bewildering.
What is “unChristian” about enforcing our laws – finally? Christians shouldn’t obey laws or follow regulations? What kind of Christianity is that? Even Christianity has its own laws and I don’t think they condone the besieging of a country whose people have welcomed you or at least been tolerant of your needs since you first sought refuge inside its borders.
What is Christian about Haitians threatening Bahamians (on any level), illegally populating their country in droves, and then telling them it’s not enough? How can it be that anyone could expect this to be done to Bahamians and they not feel some type of way about it?
Moreover, how is the welfare of illegal immigrants and their offspring a more humanitarian cause than the welfare of legal citizens of a country and their offspring? Shouldn’t a country get to decide priority for itself? Who is protecting the interest of the legal Bahamian living legally in the Bahamas?
Are we as a country, as a world, so accustomed to being slack and passive that to do what is obedient, to follow the laws of a land actually seems unfair? When did right become wrong?
What if me and 49,999 of my fellow Bahamians, natural-born or naturalised, rolled up into any country in the world, undocumented, and said “let us in”, demanded a right to stay, and to receive medical care, food, education, jobs, economic opportunity, immunity from deportation, all because, you know, immigration is normal and that country should just accept it?
Should we not expect the people born of or patriotic to that country we just illegally bombarded to retaliate?
When you threaten someone’s livelihood and existence, when they’ve fought and worked so hard for the little they have, and easy access is given to others who come through the back door, you should expect to meet the greatest amount of resistance. I know I would expect it; but, then again, I am law-abiding.
And maybe that’s the missing link in the sympathisers’ argument – respect for the rule of law. After all, if you sympathise with what is illegal, it does beg the question of what else you might condone or be involved in that is illegal.
The challenge the Bahamas faces now with illegal immigration is the same one America is facing. I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but it’s hard to miss that members of the GOP, in the persons of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are vehemently opposed to Barack Obama’s soft stance on illegal immigrants, as many Bahamians have been for a long time with respect to their own leaders.
All over the internet, in online news and their respective message boards, are countless comments of the American public expressing the same sentiments that a majority of Bahamians do about illegal immigration to our country. “Why do we (America) have to have our borders spreadeagle for all to enter?” “Why is our leader not paying attention to the will of the people?”
If the will of the people is to be ignored, why even have borders and border enforcement? Why have laws? Why have government? Why have national sovereignty, if people from other countries should just flow freely in and out as they like, for whatever reason they feel is important?
What if every country opened its borders to citizens from every other country? You could choose wherever in the world you wanted to live at any given time, for any length of time, never need a passport, and just - bam - go there.
What a world that would be. I wonder if the sympathisers would like that.
And once there, the incoming immigrants could just set up house on any tract of land, including land already owned by others ... maybe even land owned by the sympathisers. Then what?
And what if the immigrants refused to speak to you in your language and used any means necessary to gain ownership of what you’ve worked for? Then what?
Is that what we’re aiming for? If so, what are we waiting on? Just open all borders now, one time, everywhere, and let us have a free-for-all.
No? Because it might be too disorderly?
Well maybe now you’re starting to get the point.
The difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration is that the former is done in an orderly fashion to prevent the chaos that occurs if done in the disorderly, illegal way.
When will the sympathisers get that?
No one is saying there should be no immigration; any person with half a brain can examine the foundations of the developed world and see how the work done by immigrants has helped to create world powers. Everyone has a skill that is useful somewhere, and a purpose to match it.
No one is saying a human being has no right to want to try for a better life in a place where they weren’t born. But there is usually an existing process to accomplish this. And it must be respected. Illegally entering a country, knowing you’re illegal, is blatant disrespect to that country, and it earns no compassion amongst that country’s law-abiding when illegality is your chosen route.
If my Bahamian mother entered and lived illegally in the United States, gave birth to me there, miraculously under the radar, even though I would have been a citizen at birth according to US law (as is not the law of the Bahamas), my mother would not have got a free pass; she wouldn’t have inherited the right to stay in America because I was born a US citizen.
She would have still been illegal, could have still been deported, and, as my primary caretaker, I would have had to go with her until I was old enough to survive on my own in the place where I had citizenship, a choice I would most likely make by the time I was ready for college, at or near the age of 18.
In contrast, with respect to the laws of the Bahamas and its illegal Haitian immigrants, Bahamian citizenship at birth is not an option. And Haitian citizenship/nationality at birth is not elective for Haitian children illegal in the Bahamas ... they’re Haitian children. They take their parents’ nationality. And they should take it with pride. They have a motherland. Why is this confusing?
Why are others – sympathisers and abusers of our Bahamian law – trying to superimpose a law on us that does not exist? Because it suits their own needs/benefits.
If you are illegal in the Bahamas, and you give birth to one child or 14 children in the Bahamas, you and your children are still illegal in the Bahamas. If you find yourself in a quandary at any point in time because of this fact, it’s because of your own choice to drop your babies on Bahamian soil.
You created this problem for yourself, because we have a law which has always been clear: you only have a right to apply for Bahamian citizenship (whether you reside legally or illegally) if you are born in the Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents, and only at the age of 18. That does not mean you stay here until you are 18. And the life you live if you choose to remain is a result of your own doing. You should apply for your children’s passports from your birth country, from the time they are born.
For that matter, there is no one born in the Bahamas without the right to claim any citizenship status at all, ie rendering them “stateless”; they have other citizenship status whether they want it or not. They always have, and they always will, until such time that they renounce it and, legally, take another.
In the latest (November 1) enforcement of new Bahamian immigration law, Haitians especially (some Bahamians and others, additionally) claim the required time frame is too short notice for those illegally in the Bahamas to get the documents required of them to lawfully remain in the Bahamas.
But how can any illegal immigrant fix their mouth to say the new law doesn’t provide enough time for them to get legal citizenship documents? They’ve had 40 years to do it!
And each time they pushed out another baby, they should have gone to their country’s embassy to apply for a passport for the child – that is, of course, if they intended for that child to be a citizen of their own birth country, which is most often not the case.
Regarding Bahamian citizenship rights, the law has always been (since 1973) what it is today and if you did anything counter to it, and still do, you’ve always been illegal. Either you chose not to concern yourself with the law and what it might have required of you, or you knew the law and deliberately chose to go against it. And ignorance nor belligerence are excuses for breaking the law.
With specific regard to illegal Haitian immigration to the Bahamas, and where we find ourselves today, there is much blame to throw around: from the Bahamian government’s historic timidity towards immigration law enforcement/creation, to the Bahamian employers and boat captains who open the gateway for illegal immigrants, to the Haitian government that doesn’t direct the Haitian people to stay at home and build up their country.
But, beyond this blame-throwing, there is one inescapable fact that anyone pleading on behalf of illegal Haitian immigrants cannot deny: there is one place where the problem can be entirely resolved.
If Haiti cared about the problem the Bahamas has endured for decades with nonstop illegal Haitian immigrants, Haiti would have stemmed the problem from within its own borders before it ever became a problem for the Bahamas. Haiti has enough manpower to do that. And if they did this at the root of the illegal immigrants’ departure from Haiti, the Bahamas wouldn’t have the enormous problem with illegal Haitian immigration that it does today.
Considering this reality, that the Haitian government is well-positioned to prevent its own people’s illegal migration to the Bahamas, is it any wonder, then, why Bahamians take issue with their Haitian sisters and brothers who flock here by the hundreds? It’s an awful abuse of a friendly relationship.
In the Bahamas, we have a couple of sayings which describe when a person takes advantage of another, or a situation: “You get too use”, or “you too familiar”, or “you wear out your welcome”.
In the end, no one likes a user or an abuser – especially the abused – even if they do still love them.
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