By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell has branded the recent efforts of human rights attorney Fred Smith, QC, and his backers as "cowardly" and "indiscriminate," further imploring the Minnis administration to quickly amend the laws to add clarity as to who has the right to be granted citizenship.
In a statement circulated early Friday, the former Immigration Minister, said the Official Opposition stands in support of government's effort to end what he called an "attempt to overthrow the government of The Bahamas by violence and insurrection."
Mr Mitchell claimed that Mr Smith, through his advocacy group, Rights Bahamas, and its supporters, has incited "loose talk" around the Bahamas' constitution as it relates to citizenship and who is entitled to it.
Mr Mitchell was particularly critical of the production and mass distribution of a pamphlet by Rights Bahamas.
Responding to the contents of that pamphlet and Mr Smith's persistence in local courts, Mr Mitchell said: "There is, in our view, indiscriminate and loose talk about the country that there is an ambiguity about who is a citizen of The Bahamas or entitled to be registered as one. The Progressive Liberal Party's position is that there is no ambiguity. The framers of our constitution wrote precisely what they intended it to be."
His statement said that "the only persons who are able to claim citizenship of the Bahamas by birth are those whose married parents are Bahamian and their children are born in the Bahamas; those born overseas to a Bahamian father married to the mother of the child; those born to a single Bahamian mother anywhere in the world; the exception to conferring birth when born overseas to a married Bahamian father or a single Bahamian mother is when that parent obtained their citizenship comes by reason of the exception in Article 3(2) of the constitution."
The Senator, in his statement, presented the case of famed Bahamian actor Sir Sidney Poitier, who he noted could not pass on his citizenship to his children at birth because they were born overseas.
Mr Mitchell insisted that if a person does not obtain citizenship by birth or descent, by law, they have to apply for citizenship and it is up to the Minister who holds responsibility for nationality to grant citizenship.
"There is nothing that is ambiguous about this," Mr Mitchell said. "The mischief making comes when advocates argue that because someone is born in the Bahamas to non Bahamian parents and applies pursuant to the constitution after their 18th and before their 19th birthday, they have an automatic entitlement to citizenship of The Bahamas and cannot be expelled from the country. This is not so. They like everyone else must apply and unless they have a residency status for The Bahamas, they are subject to exclusion from The Bahamas through the normal immigration processes."
Mr Mitchell said the 2015 amendment to the Immigration Act was primarily done to grant a special residency status for persons that fell into this category.
However, he also noted that without some residency status, there is no special exception for these persons.
To that end, Mr Mitchell said, the government should amend the law to ensure that it is clear that it is the executive who has the right to grant citizenship in the Bahamas and no one else. He further insisted that all cases currently before the courts should be prosecuted to the highest courts in the land.
Friday's statement also said the Director of Immigration should have the unfettered power to dismiss anyone from the country who is not a Bahamian or a permanent resident subject to law.
Mr Mitchell served as Minister of Immigration in the former Christie Cabinet.