Recent comments from Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis regarding a deadline for illegal migrants to leave the country by December 31, 2017 as he warned that an aggressive pursuit and deportation will be the fate of anyone who does not comply, has left Bahamians of Haitian descent upset.
Abaco has one of the largest Haitian immigrant and Haitian Bahamian populations in the country; many of whom live in the congested and often unregulated communities of The Mudd, Pigeon Peas and Sand Banks among others.
In interviews conducted with The Tribune residents of the Mudd and Pigeon Pea in Abaco sent a strong warning to the Prime Minister over the new deadline saying that: “Five years will come again”.
There was extreme disappointment from many in the community over the tone struck by Dr. Minnis, whom they feel betrayed members of the Haitian community after pandering for their vote ahead of the general elections.
“We as Haitian,” said Bahamian Anne-Rose Jean, “we don’t have no problem with him (Dr. Minnis), because we know that five years coming again. We put him there, remember Dr. Minnis, we put you where you are today. You reach after four months and we are the same people you throw the rock at, but another five years will come again.
“We don’t put you there forever, after five years you will see what’s going on because Haitian is a nation who don’t scared suffering. We used to that, we used to suffering, and so we will wait another five years because we sure you coming again.”
While the deadline does not affect Ms. Jean, 40, she took strong exception to Dr. Minnis’ statement because it signaled that there would be no real change to the government’s futile, costly, and inhumane approach to immigration.
Many residents said they are not against the enforcement of immigration laws; however they are against unlawful deportations and detention, irregular processing and subsequent backlogs, and a complete lack of political will to provide meaningful solutions.
A frequent suggestion was for the Department of Immigration to modernize and clear its backlog before setting off on a crusade similar to the one that became an international spectacle and human rights disaster on November 1, 2014.
Sandra, a 16-year-old, said that she plans to stay with friends if her parents get deported along with her two younger siblings; hoping to complete her studies next year and become a business woman after applying for citizenship at 18.
However, she said it was heartbreaking watching other children languish in the community because they cannot attend classes. Stephanie, Sandra’s younger sister, will turn five next month. It is not expected that she will be able to enter grade 1.
“I don’t feel no type of way (about the deadline), but I feel bad for the kids who aren’t going to school,” Sandra said tearfully.
While officials have stressed that the new deadline would affect migrants of all nationalities, shanty town residents said that coded language made it clear that Haitians were the target given historic prejudices as the largest migrant group in the country.
Many surmised that the move was a desperate attempt to revive plummeting approval ratings for the Minnis administration, and expressed outrage that the Haitian community was still being scapegoated for the nation’s ills.
Ms. Jean continued: “I want this message to go into the government’s ears, the Prime Minster, because he spoke to me at the rally here before the election. (Dr. Minnis) He said where you from, I said Farm Road, he said you know me well, I said yeah I know you well.
“That Prime Minister job is not Minnis position, Minnis should have stayed where he was, you’re a doctor stay right there. They don’t give no chance to nobody else, the pot only boiling one side some get, some don’t get none, some are dying. Dr. Minis catch your sense because you’re dealing with Haitians, remember, that’s a nation that’s not scared of suffering.
“We will have an answer for you in the next five years,” Ms. Jean added, “put that to your head and thank you very much.”