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We’Re Just Trying To Make It Clearer: Bethel Defends Proposed Changes To Immigration Law

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By RICARDO WELLS 

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel said yesterday the government’s proposed Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill is seeking to establish greater certainty and fairness in its handling of nationality cases.

Addressing the legislation outside of Cabinet, Mr Bethel said the government would provide a legal framework to improve upon its ability to deal with offenders, while still being able to appropriately deal with asylum seekers and anyone that otherwise qualifies to reside or work in The Bahamas.

The bill, which is currently out for public consultation, will, among other things, subject persons born in The Bahamas post-independence who have not applied to be or have not been registered as a Bahamian citizen by their 19th birthday to deportation within six months of its implementation if some other legal status is not secured.

The NIAB 2018, as proposed by the Law Reform Commission, further seeks to address areas of the constitution relating to what happens to persons born post-independence to two non-Bahamian parents before their 18th birthday and after their 19th birthday; and those persons born outside of the Bahamas to a Bahamian mother before their 18th birthday and after their 21st birthday.

These issues are derived primarily from articles 7 and 9 of the constitution; but aren’t addressed therein or by later amendments.

The NIAB 2018 will grant persons in both these categories — born outside of the Bahamas to a Bahamian mother and born inside the Bahamas to two non-Bahamian parents — the “right of abode” or the right to live in the Bahamas while a minor, up to the age of 18.

In the case of those children born to two non-Bahamian parents, they will be given an opportunity to apply for a resident belonger’s permit if they are in the custody and care of a parent or guardian who has the right to live in the Bahamas.

Additionally, this classification of person will now have a right to legally live and work in the Bahamas up to the time they apply to be registered as a Bahamian citizen and while that application is being processed and/or appealed.

The new bill will also establish that these persons lose their constitutional right to be registered as Bahamians after their 21st birthday.

Those persons whose time to apply to be registered has already expired, would be given six months from the date on the bill’s passage to apply for some form of status — naturalisation, permanent residency, etcetera — or face jail time or deportation.

When asked about the implications of the bill once passed, Mr Bethel said the bill is merely seeking to provide “clarity” and give the government the legal flexibility to determine, based on consideration, whether or not a person should be deported or whether or not some other arrangement should be made.

“But right now, the law is silent,” he contended. “It seeks, merely, to give greater clarity. I am sure that human rights groups or vested interest, for example one of the groups being consulted in the Haitian Pastors Association, may have something to say about that period of six months. They may want it longer. But it stands to reason that if someone had 18 years to make up their mind at the age of 18 to apply for Bahamian status, which the constitution would have given them, and failed to do so, it may raise a question.”

He added: “I don’t want to say exactly what question it is, because that would be a question for the appropriate minister, in this case the minister of immigration, to make the first judgment on.”

However, in furthering his observation of the proposed bill, Mr Bethel insisted that passing any new law does not summarily stop the “ceaseless assaults upon our sovereignty” by “economic migrants”.

He said, based on the language of the proposed bill, economic migrants will not qualify for asylum, and once it is determined a person entered the Bahamas unlawfully, the bill will provide a more “modernised framework” and “greater parity” as to those circumstances in which those persons can be returned to their home country by lawful process or summarily.

“…The bill seeks to do is to clarify the law. There has been, since the last Immigration Act was passed many years ago, there have been many developments in common law, in the decisions made by the courts which this bill, hopefully, will capture at the end of the day. Of course, it was out for consultation and there may be further changes,” Mr Bethel said.

He added: “…As a result of our obligations to these international communities that we have undertaken, so for example, our commitment to the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights, we have brought in a number of protective measures really without the benefit of a legal framework in which to do so.

“So for example, unaccompanied minors are subjected to special consideration to make sure that they are not victims of sex trafficking or human trafficking.

“Women with their children are kept segregated from the general population if they go into the Detention Centre, they are kept in separate housing so that there is no risk of any kind of malpractice or ill-treatment according to women and children.

“So these things are all going to be captured in the bill to formalise our legal commitment to those things that we have brought into effect over the past decades to improve the quality of services rendered by the immigration authorities in this country and to make for a more efficient system of determining the rights of individuals within our boundaries,” Mr Bethel said yesterday.

The Law Reform Commission is chaired by former Court of Appeal President Dame Anita Allen.

Comments

John 8 months, 1 week ago

Why such a small window considering how slow the process moves for getting these things done. Two things government should consider. Make Drivers Education a part of the 12 grade curriculum in all government schools. Start a program in the schools where all students can do all the necessary paperwork and apply for status while still in school. A mobile service that can go from school to school and even those on the family islands. Make the process more seamless and less faustrating rather than one that seeks to criminalize jail and depot potential citizens. Of course this is only kicking the ball further down the street because you are not only giving persons who may be victims of circumstance and who may otherwise be upstanding citizens with good potential, a criminal record, but you are attempting to deport them from the only country they know. What do you think will be their first goal when they arrive in Haiti, a strange and impoverished land with no family or friends?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

As usual your head is stuck in the weeds and you just can't see the much bigger and more important forest. LMAO

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ACCP 8 months ago

Ohhh I'm so sad for them to return to an impoverished land with No family & No friend's....DON'T BLAME MY GOVERNMENT BUT THEIR PARENT'S....POINT BLANK

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thephoenix562 8 months, 1 week ago

Under 18 you cant apply for anything,your parents or guardian has to do it.I do agree that 6 months is a short time considering the documents that will be required.Considering some Bahamians cant get passports in 6 months and some Bahamians are now being told after multiple passports,voters cards,years of service to their country that at age 60 etc that they have to prove they are Bahamian.Ah well

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill is nothing but a wrongful and illegal end-run-around of the existing citizenship provisions of our Constitution, and Carl Bethel knows it. Both The Minnis-led FNM government and an internal faction within the U.S. Department of State are succumbing to pressure from human rights activists who could not care less about our existing Constitutional rights. It is not coincidental that only a few days ago the U.S. Department of State was falsely accusing the Bahamas of creating stateless people just because they (and the human rights activist groups behind them) happen not to like the citizenship provisions of our Constitution. Only a few short years ago did the Bahamian people vote on amendments to our Constitution that were proposed regarding the very same matters now being wrongfully put in this new bill, as if parliament alone, without a vote of the people, has the power to amend our Constitution. The people have voted on these matters already. And just because a human rights driven internal faction within the U.S. Department of State did not like the outcome of that vote does not give them the right to try use our dimwitted parliamentarians to do something unlawful (unconstitutional), which is precisely what this new bill seeks to do. If this new bill is enacted and becomes law, we, the Bahamian people, might as well tear up our Constitution because we will no longer have any rights under it whatsoever. Could you just imagine for a moment what the U.S. government would say to our government and the Bahamian people if we dared to tell them to amend their own laws about who may reside in the U.S. and become a U.S. citizen. The U.S. government and American people would rightfully tell all of us to go fly a kite!!!

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sheeprunner12 8 months, 1 week ago

If it will improve on the "gray areas" .......... Why not????? Good change is welcomed

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Chucky 8 months, 1 week ago

what about all the lost applications

every government office has desks littered with stacks of paper and filea covered in dust

what about all the corruption immigration , so many who applied whos file " went missing " due to lack of or insufficient bribe money

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sheeprunner12 8 months, 1 week ago

Well ........... give them 6 months amnesty to re-apply ...... Duhhhhhh

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

This will be a rubber stamping exercise for the grant of Bahamian residency and/or citizenship to literally thousands of illegal aliens who should be deported. And Minnis is counting on all of the newly minted Bahamian citizens voting for FNM candidates in the next general election. It's all about trying to hold on to political power at any cost, including making us the minority group in our own country. If this new bill is enacted the demographics of our country would be transformed overnight and we could kiss our short-lived period of majority rule good-bye. The Bahamian people have already voted against the matters this new bill now seeks to make law when they voted a few years ago on the proposed amendments to the Constitution. It is patently wrong for parliament to attempt to usurp powers that are reserved solely for the Bahamian people under the Constitution of Commonwealth of The Bahamas. These are not matters for our parliamentarians to vote on. They are matters exclusively reserved under our Constitution for the Bahamian people to vote on. And Carl Bethel and the entire Minnis-led FNM government know this.

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sheeprunner12 8 months, 1 week ago

Mudda ........... you have a point. But what are we to do with the 50,000 non-citizen persons without legal Bahamian status who have been here a least 2 generations???? ............ We need a house cleaning exercise, like it or not.

It has lingered too long ......... since the 1960s for some- like Frankie Campbell who was fortunate enough to get sorted out by SLOP. Thousands (either immigrants or single parents offspring) are not as lucky as Creole Frankie.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

Remember: Very few are more coy and deceitful than Carl Bethel !

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bogart 8 months, 1 week ago

WID ALL RESPECTS.....TO DA .....POWERS....OVER DA SOVEREIGN ......COMMONWEALTH OF DA BAHAMAS..............YA CANNOT BE FINANGLIN.....TO COMFORT DA ECHELONS..ELITES ....WEALTHY ...EMPLOYERS.....TO ACCOMODATED DERE ....HOUSEKEEPERS...GARDINERS...DERE CHILLREN.....EMPLOYMENT OF.......UP TO 50,000 ILLEGALS IN BAHAMAS... noone ever bin caught in decades...mabye one...out of 50,000 illegals.....ILLEGAL LABOURERS ...HAVING CHILLRENS..TO ADVANTAGE OVER GUBBERMINT SLACKNESS...........according to the International Organization of Migration estimated up to 50,000 UNDOCUMENTED..illegals..still hiding...duckin...fraudulent papers...fix it all accused culprits...no dishonesty exposed after all dese years....no one gone to jail....no accomplices...cohorts....facilitators of illegals....SEEMS BLATENT BREAKING LAWS AN BEING REWARDED......no investigations in Immigration.... BIGGEST GLARING.......OBMISSION...IS NOT TALKING ABOUT THE ...ODDER SOVEREIGN NATION OF HAITI....IN TAKING BACK DERE ILLEGAL PEOPLE WID DERE CHILLREN...!!!!!!!!!!!!!we da pore people tired of the echelong sticking dere mistakes onto to the pore people an all we gats is Bahamian speaking we SOVEREIGN BAHAMAS......!!!!!! DIS ....AGGRIEVED..VICTIM .SOVEREIGN BAHAMAS NATION.......NEEDS TO ROLL DA SHIRT SLEEVES UP AN ....TALK TO DA ODDER COLONIZING SOVEREIGN NATION WILLFULLFY DOING DIS INVASION...PLUNDERING..TAKING OVER ..FER DECADES....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

Your figure of 50,000 is materially understated. It is currently estimated that there are over 80,000 illegal aliens spread throughout The Bahamas, most of whom are of Haitian heritage. Upwards of two-thirds of the illegal aliens reside on New Providence Island. 80,000 is the CIA estimate fed to the U.S. Department of State. And even that figure too might be understated today!

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sheeprunner12 8 months, 1 week ago

What is your source??????? ......... 90,000 persons with NO formal documents of any country living in The Bahamas????? ...................That is very high.

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DDK 8 months, 1 week ago

It IS high, isn't it?? That is the problem!

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bogart 8 months, 1 week ago

See......Tribune Migrants' birthrate cause of concern...Monday, 15 October, 2015...... Basically data....Minister Brent Symonette....expotential growth ...

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

Just think of the huge uncontrollable crisis situation we will all too quickly have if most of our current illegal aliens are suddenly allowed to legally reside in our country and/or are given Bahamian citizenship. They won't be able to build or import enough boats in Haiti to accommodate the crowds that would quickly take to the seas headed in our direction!!! Just what kind of foolish message is the Minnis-led FNM government trying to send. Minnis and our AG, Carl Bethel, certainly don't seem to be able to see past their Pinocchio noses !!!!! This foolish new immigration bill, which is unconstitutional, also has the scent of Anita Dames, Ruby Nottage, and others like them, all over it. It seems the corrupt political elite in our country will not stop their foolishness and nonsense until they see the Haitian flag replace the Bahamian flag at the top of the flag pole at Government House!! They should be getting on with a systematic deportation policy and break all diplomatic ties with Haiti if the Haitian government resists taking back their own people who are in our country illegally. And if this upsets the U.S. State Department, then Uncle Sam should be called on to find a home for these so called "stateless" people in the U.S. They certainly have a hell-of-a-lot more land and resources than we do to accommodate them!!!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

And to think the Trump administration is deporting record numbers of their own illegal aliens and also wants to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S. to protect themselves from caravan after caravan of illegal aliens headed their way. Meanwhile they are pressuring our dimwitted politicians to grant some kind of residency and/or citizenship to illegal aliens in our country, and to do so in a manner that does not respect the most basic constitutional rights of the Bahamian people.

It seems our weak and feckless Minnis-led FNM government would rather cave to the constantly shouting and ranting human rights activists rather than respect the rights and look after the interests of the Bahamian people. We have a government hell bent on giving away as much of our scarce land as it possibly can to foreign corporate interests, while at the same wanting to 'legalize' thousands and thousands of illegal aliens. We don't have the land for all of illegal aliens to live on as it is. We barely have enough land for ourselves. On New Providence Island we are already crawling over one another with long lines and traffic congestion everywhere!! Is our government really about to perpetrate on the Bahamian people one of the cruelest acts ever?

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DDK 8 months, 1 week ago

Think the activist in the other story is protesting just for ''show" while actually feeling rather gleeful?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

Yes. For these human rights activists, when it comes to the subject of illegal aliens, it's always all about getting the government to recognize their wants and needs at the expense of the wants and needs of the Bahamian people. They and their few Bahamian supporters will soon start doing what they always do, i.e. labelling us as un-Christian, heartless, cruel, inhumane, etc., etc., etc. They have a game plan and play book that's all too predictable.

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sheeprunner12 8 months, 1 week ago

But if these persons were born here and are U18 or otherwise ......... they have certain entitlements by the Constitution ........... it's the illegal immigrants and others without legal rights that can be deported .......... and it is NOT 80,000 for sure. There are those who have applied and 10-20 years later, still have gotten NO official word from our Government. Is it their fault???????

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TheMadHatter 8 months, 1 week ago

"Charlene, 23, told The Tribune she had a Haitian passport but feared for her sister who was unable to apply before their parents’ death due to lack of funds. Her sister has a daughter, whom she fears will have an even harder time applying for documents to access citizenship."

So she did not fear her daughter would have a hard time applying before she got pregnant? These people just come here with ONE purpose in mind and that is to outbreed Bahamians and become the majority.

They know there is no consequencw to their actions. They don't have to worry how they will pay rent or where they will get food for their children. The BAHAMIAN churches provide them all that they need.

I also do not believe that they send $US funds to Haiti. That is a believable lie told to turn eyes away from the monies arriving aboard sloops from the Haitian Govt to support their landed soldiers here. All Haitians here are soldiers of the Haitian Govt conducting an invasion of our country. They are wise - but they don't need to be - because the vast majority of Bahamians are too stupid to observe the take-over in front of their eyes. We are probably past the point of solution now. Haitians have nothing to fear from this new law or any law.

They could send 37 Haitians off the street to sit with the 2 already there next week and take over Parliament and nothing would be done about it. Nothing, trust me. Only thing would be new pictures on the walls of every govt office.

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TalRussell 8 months, 1 week ago

Yes, yes, yes comrade AG Carl Wilshire fumbles whilst justifying the denying our Colony of Out Islands constitutional obligations, yes, no?

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DEDDIE 8 months, 1 week ago

I thought they were attempting to remedy a problem. To remedy the problem allow persons to apply at any age after eighteen for citizenship once they are born here. There is a grouping of persons who can not obtain Haitian citizenship because their parents are not native born Haitians. That grouping is growing every year.

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Cas0072 8 months, 1 week ago

In case you missed it, the problem that they are trying to remedy is Haitian nationals lingering around brazenly undocumented, well beyond their 19th birthdays because they could not be bothered to apply for citizenship. The Bahamas does not need to fill the gap for what is lacking in the Haitian constitution. The parents of that "grouping of persons" you mentioned need to petition their government well before their kids 18th birthday so that they will have a passport and all other documents when they apply prior to turning 19. Otherwise, they should be prepared to prove their statelessness. The government is doing way too much in spelling out the consequences of not applying. Not applying renders non-applicants as citizens of their parents country and they are rightfully subject to deportation like any other undocumented non-citizen. It is not that complicated.

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John 8 months, 1 week ago

The fact is that there are now third and fourth generations of persons with (illegal) Haitian parentage in this country. Neither the parents nor the grandparents applied for citizenship. The young men in this generation tend to surface when they commit crimes because after 18 they have no status or documents that will allow them to get a regular job or become a regular citizen. Many of they will not complete the process on their own to become naturalized and haiti has no obligation to take them in. Exactly how sending them to jail will benefit anyone, Bahamas included, because you now have an alien with a criminal record. lLess employable, less likely to be accepted if deported and a bigger problem to deal with. Jail should only be an alternative when all other avenues to resolving the problem are exhausted. Then, of course, the country must be careful not to open a floodgate of aliens trying to get status in the country. They can easily outnumber the indigenous Bahamian.

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Cas0072 8 months, 1 week ago

I suggest that they dedicate the upcoming flag day to tracing their lineage in The Bahamas or learning about available resources to do so. If the young men in these situations tend to surface only when they commit crimes, that means they are already on the fast track to jail and being stains on society. One who is otherwise law abiding will only be detained in the detention center and processed accordingly.

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TheMadHatter 8 months ago

Jail will help the situation because then there won't be a 5th generation. Two man can't make baby (no matter how hard they try).

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TalRussell 8 months, 1 week ago

Yes, yes and yes ma comrades, so much well hidden ugliness that you see whenever who is, or gets be, a Colony of Out Islands citizen, yes, no - it's hard start debate without ugliness resurfacing, yes, no..... regardless, we must be willing to openly come together to debate what is good and what is bad for today's Colony of Out Islands, our society, our times and very existence, yes, no?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

At least many of us now know who you are............which means many of us will continue not bothering to read any of the gibberish you post. ROWL

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