September 22, 2020

ROLLOVER WRANGLE: Fury over job permit shake-up

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Hon. Ezzard Miller

Political opposition is growing to proposals by Premier McKeeva Bush to suspend Cayman’s much-maligned Rollover Policy, despite pleas to allow a review body time to weigh changes to immigration laws.

Leader of the Opposition People’s Progressive Movement Alden McLaughlin and North Side independent Ezzard Miller challenged the Bush proposals, announced in Parliament on Wednesday, the former fearing endemic confusion and the latter worrying Caymanians could “lose political control of their country”.

Mr Bush hit back yesterday, however, saying a committee, comprising the Chamber of Commerce, Cayman Finance, the Immigration Review Team and “other” small-business representatives, would sort through the issues within six months, with an eye to new legislation within two years.

Mr Bush on Wednesday proposed suspending for up to two years the seven-year residency limit on Cayman’s almost 20,000 work-permit holders, while the as-yet-unnamed committee explores policy and legislative changes.

Mr McLaughlin was unsure Cabinet had power to suspend a formal law, but worried that too many questions remained unanswered.

“The rollover is linked to permanent residency and then grant of [Caymanian] status,” he said. “Everything turns on the length of time you are allowed to be here.”

A work-permit holder can circumvent the seven-year limit by gaining “key employee” status, allowing further residency. After eight years, a holder may seek “permanent residence”, and, ultimately, Caymanian status and even naturalisation, conferring voting rights.

Premier McKeeva Bush

“What’s going to happen in that two-year period of suspension?” Mr McLaughlin asked. “Does that count towards permanent residency? What happens to key employee status?

“What we ought to do is just take three months and redraft the provisions in the law. I don’t understand the extension period,” he said. “Let’s just get it changed. Businesses want certainty, and I truly worry that what should be positive, may deteriorate into confusion and uncertainty.”

Mr Miller was adamant: “I won’t support a two-year moratorium. I would guess there are between 6,000 and 8,000 people, all of whom could get permanent residency, and once you get permanent residency, we are almost obliged to give you status. Two years after that you get naturalised. It’s almost impossible to prevent.

“This is going to enable 6,000 people to keep jobs and Caymanians won’t get them. Caymanians have lost economic control of the country, and now we will lose political control,” he said.

Mr Bush rejected the criticism, admonishing both MLAs to “stop playing politics. I am doing what’s good for the country. Ezzard needs to stop trying to frighten the country and stop trying to get into the Cabinet.

“Alden changed the immigration laws twice and he is finding that I am finding a solution, and he wants to be part of it. He needs to give the committee time to do its work,” Mr Bush said.

Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Meeting on Tuesday, Cabinet will explore suspension of the Rollover Policy “and the section of the law” that enabled it, he said. Within 180 days, six months, the committee would offer drafting instructions to change the law, which “may not need two years, but we will have 180 days to see.

“We will never lose political control,” Mr Bush said, dismissing Mr Miller’s fears. “This is not a status grant. Cayman has lost businesses and this is a bad time to throw people out of the country. It would destroy the country and even more Caymanians would be unemployed. We need people for business in these serious economic times,” he said.

 

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