By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
FORMER State Immigration Minister Branville McCartney thinks undocumented migrants who were displaced by Hurricane Dorian should be given provisional status as a measure for the government to get a handle on an illegal migration problem that could easily spiral out of control.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, the former minister explained that this measure would allow proper monitoring of those in the country illegally.
Once done, he said, stipulations could then be put in place that make it mandatory for these status holders to pay taxes.
This designation, he said, should come with an expiration date at which time the government may then decide whether or not to renew it.
Mr McCartney is the second public figure to come forward in recent weeks with the concept of granting provisional status to those affected by Hurricane Dorian.
Earlier this month, Haitian Chargé D’Affaires Dorval Darlier called on the government to allow temporary asylum for those undocumented migrants affected by the monster storm. He said this would be the best way the Minnis administration could help his people as it would take years for them to rebuild their lives.
“The government certainly did the right thing in suspending deportations in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian,” Mr McCartney told The Tribune. “I think what needs to happen initially is to ensure that the persons who have been displaced, firstly determine who they are and I think this is a good opportunity to determine who the persons who are illegal in this country are and it is certainly suggested that now is the time to start registering these people.
“Had the hurricane not occurred, these persons would have still been in this country, thousands of them. So, I think this is an opportunity now to register who’s in your country.
“Now the rebuilding and restoration is going to take some time. It’s not going to happen overnight and while that is happening I would assume the deportations would cease for a certain period of that time. We don’t know what timeframe that is.
“So the suggestion is that these persons be registered. The unfortunate event of the hurricane has occurred. Many of these persons have been displaced and now is the time for registration and as I’ve suggested, it may be prudent during that period of time for these persons to have some kind of temporary status with a time limit placed on it for a renewal of that status or a determination as to whether or not that status ought to be renewed, so that these persons who are here in light of the suspension of the repatriations now can help contribute to our society by paying their taxes and being able to do certain things so that it doesn’t all fall on the government and the tax payers of this country.”
He continued: “I think we need to, from an immigration standpoint, see how best we could start to rectify our illegal immigration concerns. If this is not handled right, certainly we stand on the cusp of a more serious problem.
“It is certainly understandable for the repatriations to cease for a period but use that period of time to get information on those persons who are here illegally in particular.
“Look at it as doing something that would allow them, since they are here, to pay for their way here by paying the taxes, because we do know that a lot of the illegals, they use our social services, they use our educational system and our health system and this is a drain our society and they are not paying any taxes. So while they’re here put it in place where they are able to pay taxes.
“Now I think that covers both bases in the sense of looking at a humanitarian point of view, the government would be suspending the repatriations for a period of time and in the meantime those persons who are here illegally will have to contribute to this society,” the former Bamboo Town MP said.
However, yesterday, government officials indicated that while repatriations of affected persons had been suspended in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the migrants face no protections and will be subject to the country’s laws of apprehension and deportation.
Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson said about three weeks ago that officials had no intention of granting undocumented storm victims any special status.