By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
IMMIGRATION shadow minister Hubert Chipman yesterday said Florida politician Daphne Campbell was “totally out of order” for her calls this week for tourists and international businesses to boycott the Bahamas because of the government’s new immigration policies.
His comments came after Mrs Campbell on Monday lobbied for a boycott of the Bahamas to “end discrimination against Haitian children” apprehended during the Department of Immigration’s recent interdiction exercise. Since making those comments, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell has responded by calling her “a fool”.
Mr Chipman told The Tribune yesterday that Mrs Campbell was “very bold” for her “to talk about boycotting the Bahamas.” He said he supported Mr Mitchell in “trying to defend the Bahamas”.
“When the Dominican Republic the other day deported all the Haitians, I didn’t hear the outcry that we’re hearing now, and for Campbell to go ahead and talk about boycotting the Bahamas she is totally out of order,” he said. “The question is, has she ever been to the Bahamas? Does she know the conditions that the illegal immigrants live under? So I think it’s an unfair statement she made.
“And to threaten us? Nobody takes a threat lightly, I will tell you that. I personally do not take a threat lightly. To talk about Florida, look what Bahamians do for the Florida economy. Billions of dollars are pumped into that on a daily basis. But the thing is, we can’t go to Florida or any state for that matter, take up residence, and say ‘Oh, I’m here, I reach. There’s hard times in the Bahamas so I need to stay here’.
“The Minister as far as I’m concerned, he’s trying to defend the Bahamas, and rightly so,” he added. “Only those who feels it knows it. (Mrs Campbell) can sit outside the country and can throw any type of blow, but she doesn’t live it. We’ve been going through this for the last 40, 50 years. We cannot continue. All we’re trying to do is enforce the laws.”
During a press conference on Channel 7 News on Monday, Mrs Campbell, a Floridian lawmaker of Haitian descent, vowed to stop at nothing until tourists and international businesses boycott the Bahamas because of the country’s controversial immigration policies that came into effect on November 1.
Mrs Campbell, also a Democratic Member of the Florida House of Representatives, said she had the power to “slap Bahamas with a law in Florida”. She said she had “Cuban elected officials” in support of her stance and also called on US President Barack Obama and (Florida) Governor Rick Scott “to make sure the voice of the voiceless are heard”.
At one point during the conference, she fervently exclaimed: “Boycott Bahamas! Boycott Bahamas to end discrimination against Haitian children!”
She said Bahamian government officials have one week to apologise and reverse the new policies, or she would travel here with a delegation to address them face-to-face.
In response to her statements, Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell called her “a fool” and said he “can’t have any time” for “anyone who talks about boycotting the Bahamas”.
Mr Chipman yesterday defended Mr Mitchell’s position on the immigration policies and said he “urges” the government to be “consistent” with their efforts in tackling illegal migration in the country.
“We cannot do this today and stop it and go back at it another time,” he said. “We need to rid ourselves of this illegal problem. You hear on a weekly, monthly basis, the Haitians – I use them only for example – they continue to flock into the Bahamas. We have invested $232m just trying to protect our borders. I don’t know what else we possibly can do.
“We don’t have space when we round up these people. We need to deport these people within a week of them hitting the detention centre, because we do not have space within the detention centre. The centre right now is bursting at the seams. I know the government deported 228 last week but that needs to happen on a weekly basis if we’re going to get anywhere.”
Mrs Campbell has reportedly had several run-ins with the US justice system. According to a report in The Miami Herald, she is already facing a Florida Medicaid fraud probe and is being investigated by federal agents who are allegedly tracing hundreds of thousands of dollars through bank accounts tied to a web of family healthcare businesses.
The report also said the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has slapped $145,000 worth of liens on the lawmaker and her husband, Hubert Campbell. IRS agents have allegedly received dozens of documents from former business associates who say the Campbells scammed them.
When questioned about the tax liens by a Miami Herald reporter, Mrs Campbell reportedly said: “I don’t have no tax liens.”
The allegations, however, following years of legal troubles for Campbell and her family, have so concerned the Florida Democratic Party that it has reportedly called on her to “consider stepping down”.