A few days before Christmas Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis again urged undocumented immigrants to observe the impending deadline (now passed) to leave the country or apply for legal status.
The Prime Minister stated that “too many” illegal immigrants are “taking” jobs from Bahamians during an interview with a ZNS News reporter shortly after returning to the country after a trip to Washington, DC.
“Those who are here illegally, do the honorable, respectable thing and leave – or apply through the legal channel so that you can be matriculated,” he said.
He also said, according to ZNS, Cabinet will discuss immigration matters when it meets on December 19, 2017.
“We will concentrate especially on immigration and other matters related to immigration,” Dr. Minnis said.
“There are too many individuals who are here illegally and taking jobs of Bahamians. They must be dealt with. I’m not saying you can’t stay, but there is a law and we are a society of laws – respect our laws, that’s all I ask.”
In early October, Dr. Minnis made his first call for illegal immigrants to leave the country by the end of the year. Speaking in the House of Assembly at the time, Dr. Minnis warned an aggressive pursuit and deportation will be the fate of anyone who does not comply.
Yesterday the prime minister also revealed Cabinet has approved an independent board that will oversee the granting of citizenship applications. This was something foreshadowed by Dr. Minnis earlier this year.
“There are many outstanding . . . individuals who qualify for citizenship but Cabinet can’t deal with it in an expeditious manner that is necessary,” the Killarney MP said. “We recognize that. We have already established an independent board that will be functional in January. That board will be able to make those determinations quickly so that individuals can be matriculated into society very easily.”
He added: “We will do everything possible in a humane manner to ensure that you will receive what you should under the law.”
Notably, over the month of December the Department of Immigration dealt with several landings and pick-ups of illegal immigrants and deported over 100 persons to their countries of origin.
Questions arose; however, when a list of deportees which was publicized listed several persons who were born in The Bahamas, including a child listed as three days old and two two-year-olds.
Rights Bahamas, led by Fred Smith, condemned the deportation of people born in The Bahamas and reiterated its call for the Department of Immigration to end the practice.
The deportation list for November 24, which was filed by the department in habeas corpus application hearings in the Supreme Court on December 19, revealed at least five people born in The Bahamas had been deported last month.
Head of the Department of Immigration’s Enforcement Unit, Kirklyn Neely said, to date, the Department of Immigration has deported nearly 7,000 persons this year
He also defended his department’s practices, expressing distaste over the outcome of recent court proceedings involving Rights Bahamas.
He indicated that immigration officers have no intention of changing the way they apprehend illegal immigrants and will instead be “stepping up” efforts despite criticism from human rights groups.
Recent immigration sweeps angered Mr. Smith, who has also written to members of the government expressing displeasure about the “complete and intentional” breakdown of the rule of law regarding the actions of immigration officials and the RBDF.