• October 3, 2023

Bryan calls for full immigration reform

Kenneth Bryan's immigration reform billboard
Minister Kenneth Bryan’s billboard

(CNS): Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan MP (GTC) is calling for immigration reform and for his colleagues in Cabinet to agree on a policy to tackle what he has said are the significant problems the current situation is causing. Following the attention his new billboard poster with this message has attracted, Bryan told CNS that there is no Cabinet rift and that he had spoken with his colleagues about how important this issue is to his George Town constituents and across the country.

Just before he left for a meeting in New York, Bryan told CNS that currently, there is no policy because Cabinet has been waiting for the completion of a report by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, under the leadership of Steve McField, which is expected to be published this month. Bryan said his worry is that this is focused only on the management of the permanent residency points system while public concern about immigration goes far wider, and the government needs to listen.

He said that the public is also concerned about the number of people coming into Cayman every day on work permits, which is fuelling further social problems, from rising housing costs to the impact on infrastructure.

The minister said he was in full support of his leader, Premier Wayne Panton, and he was not breaching the collective responsibility of Cabinet because no policy has been adopted yet for members to discuss and agree or even disagree about. He said he had ideas about a new policy that he would be outlining in public soon to get the discussion going.

Bryan stressed that he was not trying to divide the government or challenge any existing collective agreement in Cabinet, as everyone agrees that the country needs immigration reform. He said his goal was to get his colleagues to think about much broader reforms than are currently under review.

Calling in to a local radio station on Friday morning, Border Control and Labour Minister Dwayne Seymour, who is now responsible for immigration policy, told the audience he was surprised by Bryan’s posters, which were erected last week in several locations in his constituency. Seymour said that people need to be patient about immigration reform as it was under review.

But Seymour has long been an advocate of significant immigration reform. During his campaign for re-election in 2017, he promised voters that if he was elected, he would introduce a freeze on work permits.

“On day one, the first thing is to put a freeze on permits and sort out the unemployed,” he had said during a meeting hosted by the Chamber of Commerce in Bodden Town. Seymour was elected and went on to serve in the PPM-led coalition government, in which he held a seat at the Cabinet table. However, very little change was made to immigration policy during that time and there was no work permit freeze.

Despite being part of several Cabinets and in a position to influence policy during his time in office and is now the actual minister responsible for immigration, he has still not presided over any significant changes to the ever-increasing number of permit holders coming into the Cayman Islands.

Nick Joseph, a local attorney with HSM, which is dealing with a significant number of clients seeking permanent residency or Caymanian status, has been a vocal advocate for reform. In his latest commentary on the matter, he said that many of the problems in the law are a result of the mass status grant of 2003 and because we have failed to properly enforce the laws.

For many years, it has been clear that both workers and employers want to see reform, but successive governments have faced the hurdle of accommodating both sides. While the voters may back the idea of a moratorium on work permits, those who fund political campaigns do not, which is the elected members’ dilemma.

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