By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROMINENT Bahamian pastor Bishop Simeon Hall has called for all illegal immigrants to face prison sentences if they re-enter the country after deportation.
The bishop’s comments come amid heightened focus on the government’s efforts to address immigration issues.
“Only a strong message to all those who violate our laws will help curb the immigration nightmare we presently face,” he said in a statement released on Saturday.
“All illegals should be finger-printed, wherever they are from, and the second time they are found entering the country illegally they should be jailed,” said the pastor emeritus of New Covenant Baptist Church.
“I whole-heartedly support Minister (of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred) Mitchell in his effort to fix our immigration situation. I further wish to encourage him to regularise all those persons who have legitimate applications for status in the Bahamas.”
He added: “I personally know of a situation where a person was repatriated and three weeks later he was back. Compared to other countries, our immigration policies are too lenient and easily violated.”
Although human rights activists have hit out at the government over its stricter immigration policies, Mr Mitchell has repeatedly said the Christie administration has the support of the majority of the country on the issue.
For the most part, the religious community has been quiet, even as the government’s enforcement of immigration policy gets local and international backlash.
However last July, Bahamas Christian Council President Dr Ranford Patterson urged the government to “send home” all illegal immigrants during a speech to mark the 41st anniversary of independence.
“Those who are here illegally, we need to send them home,” he said. “I believe that if we fail to enforce immigration reform we will have a country where there will be two nations in one country. I believe that that’s not good for The Bahamas. We must tackle this immigration reform going forward into the next 39 years. We must know who is in our county and make sure they are paying their fair share in this country.”
Among other supporters from the religious community, the late Dr Myles Munroe commended Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell for displaying fortitude by addressing the matter days before he died in a plane crash.
The government introduced a stricter immigration policy on November 1, 2014, that, among other things, required all foreign persons to have a passport of their nationality and to show proof of their right to live and work in The Bahamas.