By TANYA SMITHCARTWRIGHT
Stafford Lightbourn and his wife, Sharon Lewis-Lightbourn need answers. Like any normal couple, they fell in love and were ultimately married on April 24, 2010. The sky was the limit for them until the Department of Immigration threw a monkey wrench in their horizon.
Shortly after the marital vows were exchanged, Stafford set about getting his foreign-born wife citizenship to the country they were to reside in – The Bahamas. Sharon is originally from Jamaica and according to The Bahamas Constitution’s Statute Law on Citizenship, she is entitled to become a citizen of The Bahamas once she is married to a Bahamian.
Unfortunately, the road to citizenship is an uphill climb for Sharon, as since 2010 she and her husband have been unsuccessful in obtaining the much desired citizenship for her.
“I applied for citizenship for my wife the week after we got married”, said Stafford. “They didn’t acknowledge me as such. They made it seem like I came to beg them for something. They told me that I am not permitted to make any application for citizenship at that time. They told me she could only make application for a Spousal Permit. We did so. That only lasts for a year. They have nothing in place to say what proper procedures are.
“When I went back a year later to renew that they told me I won’t be able to renew that, I would have to make another application. I did it a month later and they wrote me back and said that was denied and reclassified as a Work Visa with a payment of $1,000 upon approval. I paid the $1,000 and she was issued a visa. That was only good for a year. When I went back to get that renewed, they told me ‘no that will not be renewed’ so I had to make an application for it and it was denied and I was advised that I had to make an application for a Work Permit for her.”
Mr Lightbourn said the Department of Immigration told him he, not only had to look into a Work Permit for his wife, but he had to find somebody else to make the application for it.
“I wrote them back and told them I have nobody to apply for a Work Permit for my wife and I was quite capable of taking care of her myself. I eventually made an appointment to see the Director of Immigration who told me all of it should not be done like that. He immediately went downstairs and assisted me in making another application for Spousal Permit and he approved that right there and then.
“That was good for a five-year period. After the five-year period was up, I went back there to make an application for the citizenship. I was then told I could not make an application for citizenship alone, I would also have to make an application for Residency and Spousal Permit as well. I made application for the three of them. Two years later they said the Spousal Permit had been approved. Later on I received a letter saying the Residency was turned down.”
After enduring all of that over the years, Mr Lightbourn received a letter from the Department of Immigration, dated June 19, 2020, advising him that his wife’s application for citizenship was “refused”, however it said, the “board has agreed to grant Permanent Residence with the right to work”.
The letter further advised Mr Lightbourn that a Permanent Residence Certificate will remain “in force” during the lifetime of the person to whom it is granted unless revoked under Section 18. After asking for the requirements of passport pictures, a police character certificate and a payment of $1,000.00, the letter stated that if Mr Lightbourn did not indicate acceptance of the offer within a year, it would be withdrawn.
Having no other choice, because he wanted his wife covered to reside in The Bahamas, he paid the requested fees and took the offer of Residency for his wife.
Sharon Lewis-Lightbourn is now a resident of The Bahamas with the right to work, but no right to vote. The Department of Immigration never gave a reason why Mrs Lightbourn was not granted citizenship.
“We went and paid the $1,000 for her Residency and months later we were issued a certificate,” Mr Lightbourn continued. “That is not what the law says. She should be granted citizenship. She should not be given less than what the law entitles them to. They never gave a reason why.
“I wrote the Director concerning it. I wrote the Minister of Immigration concerning it. I wrote the Attorney General explaining what the situation was and my last letter was to the Prime Minister after they refused her citizenship again. I have not heard from him as yet. None of them responded to me. They were put in power to serve the people. How did they get like that? We cannot continue letting our officials who we put in power to treat us in this manner.”
The Tribune contacted the Director of Immigration’s office but was told he was unavailable. We also reached out to the Minister responsible for Immigration for clarity on the matter. He messaged saying he would call back, but he never did.
Mr Lightbourn supplied The Tribune with his Birth Certificate proving he is in fact a Bahamian; a copy of his Marriage Certificate; the letter he received from the Department of Immigration denying his wife citizenship and the letter he ultimately wrote to the Prime Minister.
This is an excerpt from the letter he wrote to the Prime Minister: “It’s been over ten years now since my wife became a citizen of The Bahamas by way of the Constitution, under article 10 of the Constitution of The Bahamas. She has spent the last ten years waiting for the Bahamas Immigration to acknowledge and register her as a citizen. On June 19, 2020, she received a letter from Immigration saying her application has been refused by Immigration to register as a citizen. Well I know I don’t have to tell you how wrong they are for doing that. You have the evidence there in your hand.
“I have watched some news on TV from around the world showing how some country’s Governments mistreat and oppress their citizens and I would think to myself that would never happen here in The Bahamas. I am writing this letter to you with much faith knowing that you would make this right and put The Bahamas Immigration Department back under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and stop oppressing the people of The Bahamas.”
The only thing Stafford got in return for his plea to the Prime Minister was silence. This is all too familiar.
Stafford and Sharon Lightbourn deserve an answer. Sharon deserves the citizenship the constitution says is allowed her.
Can someone, please, explain why this has not happened.
Sadly we suspect theirs is a story which will ring true for many other families in similar situations.