By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRESS Secretary Anthony Newbold struggled yesterday to explain what has changed about the country's enforcement of immigration laws more than a year after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis set a deadline for illegal immigrants to leave the country.
Last month marked the one year anniversary since Dr Minnis made the hardline announcement in the House of Assembly, declaring that if illegal immigrants failed to leave by December 31, 2017, they will be "aggressively pursued and deported". With no apparent change in aggression, Mr Newbold suggested yesterday Bahamians were wrong to expect visible signs of ramped-up enforcement activities.
"I think one of the things is when we think about enforcing immigration laws, people think and this depends on how jaded you might be, people think of buses in the middle of the night rousting people out of their homes," he said.
"Nah nobody's going to do that. What (the prime minister) says is 'do what you're supposed to do, follow the law, apply, get yourself straight or you are going to be prosecuted'. That is happening. What else is a big part of that is what is happening with the shanty towns. Of course nothing is happening with the shanty towns, it's a matter before the courts. He says I'm going to enforce the law. We find you we are going to prosecute you, we're going to send you to jail, whatever it is, the minister responsible has been speaking to that, that is what is happening but if people expect you will see buses riding the streets of Nassau rousting people out of their homes at night that's not whats going to happen."
Dr Minnis had suggested there would be increased prosecution of people who employ illegal immigrants, but Mr Newbold couldn't provide figures indicating whether such an increase has taken place this year.
Instead, he said "whenever (people have been found to employ illegal immigrants prosecution) has happened."
Dr Minnis' immigration promise wasn't the only issue Mr Newbold struggled to update the press on.
He was also unable to say when Dr Minnis would carry out his pledge to have an investigation into matters that led to the dissolution of the former board of Bahamas Power & Light earlier this year. Relationships frayed between two factions of the former board. Damaging allegations were made in public. It has been two months since Dr Minnis said he would appoint a team to investigate the breakdown. It appears no action has been taken since.
Mr Newbold said he could not say when a team would be appointed nor when the probe would start, though he insisted the prime minister still intends to hold to his promise.
Asked if the matter will be investigated this term, he chuckled and said: "We hope so."