EDITOR, The Tribune.
THE recent ruling to the Supreme Court regarding a person born in the Bahamas to illegal parents has stirred the ire of Bahamians everywhere. An immigration Pandora’s box of sorts has been opened and who knows where this might lead.
As a multi-generational Bahamian I have a vested interest in the well-being of this country for my children’s sake. I have a few thoughts I would like to share as a person who has no legal training, but is able to read and understand English.
The preamble of the Bahamian Constitution in referring to the Bahamian people states “... their Freedom will be guaranteed by a national commitment to Self-discipline, Industry, Loyalty, Unity and an abiding respect for Christian values and the rule of Law....” it further states that the articles that will follow are for the ...”indivisible unity and Creation under God of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.”
One must wonder then how such division can exist in this small country over issues of immigration. I suspect that they only exist because the rule of law has not been respected.
Articles (3) through (5) of the Constitution identifies persons entitled to be registered as citizens of the Bahamas and they were all persons born in the UK or its colonies or citizens of other countries over eighteen who renounced the citizenship of their native country (subject to the Immigration Act 1967). Keeping the rule of law in mind, it must be obvious that references made to persons in article (7) is based on respect for the rule of law.
Article 7(1) states that “a person born in the Bahamas after 9th July 1973 neither of whose parents is a citizen of the Bahamas shall be entitled, upon making application on his attaining eighteen years or within twelve months thereafter in such manner as may be prescribed, to be registered as a citizen of the Bahamas.” Reading this article in isolation has created a loophole of sorts that some have abused to seek citizenship for those not deserving of it!
Confusion enters my mind when I understand that the Constitution makes it clear that the rule of law is foundational to all the articles of the constitution and even makes reference to the Immigration Act 1967. In my mind, it seems to establish clearly that the right to apply for citizenship after 1973 applies to the children of the LEGAL non Bahamian residents of the country. If the children of ILLEGAL immigrants have the same entitlements under the constitution as the children of legal non-Bahamian residents, then what is the point of the rule of law or the Immigration Act? Why would the drafters of the Constitution not simply state that all children born in the Bahamas regardless of the status of their parents are entitled to apply for citizenship upon turning 18 years of age? Why would an immigration Act exist in 1967 if all and sundry could come and enjoy the benefits of this country!
In my mind this problem is further compounded when one understands that Haitian citizenship is automatically given at birth to the children of Haitian parents? Why as a sovereign country are we encouraging the birthright citizens of another country to become citizens of this country when they are twice compromised, by illegality and automatic citizenship in another country?
Where are the defenders of the Bahamian constitution?
It is either the blatant disregard for the rule of law or the fragmented thinking of lawyers and politicians that has created this immigration confusion. Maybe its both!
February 1, 2018.