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Insight: ‘We Put These People In Power To Help Us And All We Get Is A Wall Of Silence’

Stafford Lightbourn and Sharon Lewis-Lightbourn.

Stafford Lightbourn and Sharon Lewis-Lightbourn.

By TANYA SMITHCARTWRIGHT

tsmith-cartwright@tribunemedia.net

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.

Comments

birdiestrachan 1 month, 2 weeks ago

" 'We put these people in power to help us and all we get is silence".

THIS IS MOST INTERESTING.

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ohdrap4 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The Tribune has published many such stories since the 1960s.

This man could have benefitted from the earlier advice of a lawyer. That would, at a minimum, reduce or eliminate wrong decisions by immigration's lower rank.

Keep the resindency, cut your losses.

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ohdrap4 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Must be election time. The tribune publishes these stories close to elections. Just saying.

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The_Oracle 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Mr. Lightbourn has run into a Devil of our own making: Authority=Power, specifically the power to deny. They have not yet understood that real power is enabling. Most Bahamians don't realize the law we supposedly follow does not allow Civil servants to deny any service, permit or license. It requires them to ask for certain documents to proceed and process. Lawfully required documents, that should also be readily available from the various Government Depts. This business of boards/committees meeting to approve (or not) and Ministers approving (or not) is pure unmitigated garbage. They have appropriated a"power" where none exists. Approvals should be given under Authority. All the authorities require is various documents. This assumed "power" to deny runs from political at the top (where it was created) to the bottom of the Civil service. It is a primary facet of our failure at the rule of law, and most notably the spirit of the law, and self Governance. But we sit back and accept it at best, and become a part of it at worst. My favorite Quote: Politicians and Civil servants can do only that which the law proscribes, a private citizen can do anything save that which the law prohibits. They have collectively turned this on its head, To wit: Politicians and civil servants do whatever they want, including break the law, and private citizens can do only that which they allow. Is that not the truth?

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anahelxavier 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This is an interesting story, but understanding it is not that difficult. I was an Immigration official for about twenty (20) years, and the nation of The Bahamas really do not understand the laws of the The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, judge the statutory laws of Immigration. Not because you marry an Bahamian Citizen, you automatically become a citizen, that does not happen like that, if it did everyone in the world would flock to our shores, just to get a piece of the land. There are guided rules within our immigration laws that protect our very citizens and also our land for purposes as this. The resident spouse permit was put into place for this very same purpose, to guide persons within the system to citizenship, oneself when becoming a citizen of a country must learn the laws, history, culture and civics of that country. Being married to a citizen of that country does not get you that privilege. The Government of The Bahamas placed measures within our constitution to safeguard, individuals who tried to use the system for their personal gain. Bahamians need to learn and understand their laws and rules that govern their most precious thing which is our heritage, forget about the land, and whatever there is, but our heritage is most important. The Lightbourn's had to go through a process in which they felt, they should not have to go through. But actually, sad to say, they had to go through the resident spouse permit before Mrs. Lightbourn was able to apply for Citizenship. People we need to not just read the laws of one's country, but understand them as well. This has nothing to do with politics, it is just simply the law of our country.

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Dawes 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The Constitution Chapter 2 on Citizenship part 10 states " Any woman who, after 9th July 1973, marries a person who is or becomes a citizen of The Bahamas shall be entitled, provided she is still so married, upon making application in such manner as may be prescribed and upon taking the oath of allegiance of such declaration as may be prescribed, to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas: Provided that the right to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas under this Article shall be subject to such exceptions or qualifications as may be prescribed in the interests of national security of public policy".
Even the Immigration department says that a female is eligible if they are a spouse of a Bahamian Citizen. All you have done is shown that the immigration officers decided how to interpret the law as they see fit, not as the law is written. Which is wrong.

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pocoloo 1 month, 2 weeks ago

"Provided that the right to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas under this Article shall be SUBJECT to such exceptions or qualifications as may be prescribed in the interests of national security of public policy"."

That Provided is the "EXCEPTION" in the provision. The entitlement is subject to the exceptions and qualifications AS MAY BE PRESCRIBED.....

The grant of Citizenship is determined on a case by case basis and Immigration knows why they refused her. You should not be writing the PM or the Minister of Immigration to interfere in their decision. Go to the COURTS because the next headline will be how the PM or Minister interfered and granted citizenship to so and so for votes and how they are so corrupt.

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Dawes 1 month, 2 weeks ago

And therein is the problem. Basically the law can be interpreted as some mysterious person sees fit and you will never be told why they decided a certain way. It would have been cheaper for this man to just pay some money under the table then try and do it the correct way. Basically the same for most peoples dealings with Government.

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bahamianson 1 month, 2 weeks ago

they shouldn't be helping us, they should do their jobs. their job is to follow the rules. we do not owe them anything. That's the problem. when they actually do their job , we praise them like a God, then they are made heroes. Such garbage.

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Maybe he was hoodwinked by the woman ......... and there is an ongoing investigation into the background/character of his wife ........ Who knows??????? ....... Many sides to a story.

There are too many foreign women taking advantage of shallow Bahamian men who are looking for some kind of love that they believe that Bahamian women cannot give them.

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jamaicaproud 1 month, 2 weeks ago

What if he hoodwinked her to use her for trafficking. There are many Bahamian men who import foreign women for nefarious deeds? See how sick and demented that sounds? Check your head fella.

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 2 weeks ago

If you are such a proud Jamaican, yall stop wandering all over the world looking for other people to take you in .......... and take care of your own rock & womenfolk ....... Yall too like look for excuses

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The_Oracle 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Institutionalized Xenophobia. I see above a self professed ex immigration officer trying to justify it.

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