Group working to get immigration reform right

  • Leah Scott

An Opposition MP who is part of the bipartisan immigration reform committee has assured residents that the group is doing all it can to “get it right”.

Leah Scott, the deputy leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, said members were taking a “measure twice, cut once” approach to make sure that there were no unintended consequences as a result of any legislation.

She was on the panel at a public forum last month when it was revealed that a Bill designed to ease the plight of mixed-status families would not be tabled in Parliament the following day as expected.

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, had earlier planned to introduce the legislation to Parliament in July.

He told an audience at the Berkeley Institute in September that, after a meeting that day, “there was no way” that the Bill could be tabled hours later.

Ms Scott said that no single issue stood out, but that there were concerns that “we hadn’t covered all the bases in terms of what all the mixed-status permutations were comprised of”.

She added: “We don’t want to pass law that creates unintended consequences and results in having to go back and make amendments. Let’s take time and get it right.”

Ms Scott hoped that as far as possible the legislation would be something that all residents can “live with”.

She said: “Unfortunately it’s just one of those things that we’re not going to get 100 per cent right, and we’re not going to make all the people happy.

“I would rather take licks at the beginning for trying to get it right than take licks at the end for having screwed it up.”

The deputy Opposition leader added: “We want people to recognise that it may seem like it’s taking really long, but we’re just trying to do the best job that we possibly can.”

Although Ms Scott was unable to offer any concrete timeline for Parliament, she said: “I know that our goal is to have it done as soon as possible. To be honest, we’re so close.”

She is joined on the committee by Progressive Labour Party MPs Renée Ming and Christopher Famous, as well as Ben Smith, an OBA MP.

Ms Scott explained: “The most important thing that has come out of this is that it has truly been a bipartisan effort. The OBA and PLP members have worked together in ensuring that we have something that’s representative of what we think Bermuda needs, it’s not party specific.”

Collin Anderson, the national security permanent secretary, said at the meeting last month that mixed-status families, where a parent has Bermudian status or a permanent resident’s certificate but a child or spouse of the individual has neither, stood out as an area with “tremendous consensus” in the community. He presented four example “problems” in which status differed between generations and even siblings.

For each, he indicated how legislation and subsequent amendments created various scenarios, and how the Government intended to make sure that status or a PRC could be provided to those affected.

Ms Scott said she had received feedback about a comment she made on the night, regarding non-Bermudians who come to the island and “live better than the people in Bermuda”.

She said last week: “If it caused offence, it was not intended, but it’s also the reality of many people in Bermuda.”

Ms Scott added that opportunities should be equal and said that the Government was considering ways to boost apprenticeship programmes and succession planning for Bermudians.