Saturday, November 15, 2014

Repatriation: The trail of tears and fears.

No doubt the new immigration policies in The Bahamas has caused an uproar. It's not been a pretty site to see the vitriolic comments and ethnic slurs go to and fro, particularly on social media.

An example of this was when U.S. State Representative for Florida, Mrs. Daphne Campbell, attacked The Bahamas in a very unusual and mean-spirited way. Mrs. Campbell went on television in Miami on Channel 7 WSVN and asked for all tourists, all cruise ships operators and everyone that would listen, to boycott The Bahamas.

Mrs. Campbell is of Haitian heritage, and no doubt she is very proud of it as she should be. But to the extent that the fervour of her rhetoric insults the public conscience of Bahamians, based on inflated misconceptions, is where it should end.

The impetus of her vituperative and seemingly crazed assault on the Bahamian people was due to a short clip of Bahamian immigration officers performing their repatriation duties. In this short clip, officers were seen carefully leading Haitian children from homes that were abandoned by the adults in their attempt to escape capture.

Bahamian officials are trained to be responsible in this regard, and as they whisked the children away to safety from a volatile environment void of any parental supervision, they were placed into the care of The Department of Social Services until their parents could be located.

As a result of Mrs. Campbell's uninformed and vicious rant, one could only imagine that the return fire from Bahamians wasn't too friendly. It was so bad that a friend of mine living in Miami made mention of it to me, as he was concerned about not only the policies, but the relationship strains being placed on The Bahamas with Haiti and America.

This is not the first time in recent memory The Bahamas had to face criticism from dangerously uninformed "rabble-rousers" from outside of its borders, and more directly from Florida.

In 2013 The Bahamas played host to un-invited Cuban migrants on their way to Florida. As a result of their un-invited visit, they had to be detained in our detention facilities. From this, this group of very odd Cuban immigrants and their associates proceeded to then promulgate a video of their "so called" abuses at the hands of Bahamian Defence Force officers in the Detention Centre.

The video went viral, relatively speaking in Caribbean terms. Cuban-American led groups in South Florida banded together to promote the same ideas as did State Representative Campbell on The Bahamas: Boycott The Bahamas, denounce Bahamian immigration policies and basically do everything within their power to bully, harass and intimidate Bahamian officials into allowing illegal immigrants unfettered access and freeway through The Bahamas.

Fortunately, the video of the alleged abuses by the officers proved to be a fake. More fake than a $4 note. Fraudulent and baseless to boot.

In the video it was clear that the persons reported to be Bahamian Defence Force officers kicking, punching and spitting on the Cuban immigrants did not have a Bahamian accent, and it sounded as if they barely spoke English.

After it was discovered that the video of this alleged abuse was fake, the Cuban groups in South Florida, claiming to speak on behalf of the illegal Cuban immigrants in the Bahamian facilities, changed tune and then began to claim that the video was a re-enactment of events that did happen.

So, The Bahamas is not unfamiliar with uninformed attacks from persons seeking to besmirch it's name internationally. Just that this particular time with regard to the new policies from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has just been more direct in its approach.

In a nutshell, there is much to do about nothing with regard to the "new" policies on immigration. In fact, it is what we should have been doing before the problem festered into what we have now: A sub-human mess, with it being a drain on resources, coupled with the national and international security risk the flow of illegal immigrants pose in today's post 9-11 world.

For the first part, outside of the documented and legal migrants that come to The Bahamas to work, most of the time for large companies that want to hire foreign expertise for their own strategic purposes, most migrants and in particular illegal immigrants live here in sub-human and vulnerable conditions.

Particularly with regard to illegal Caribbean and Latin American immigrants living under the radar in The Bahamas, they are subject to make less than the average wage, and are open to random and targeted victimization due to their status.

In The Bahamas, we have a culture of so called "Shanty-Towns". Basically illegally structured dwellings in certain pockets of The Bahamas that are inhabited by illegal immigrants; mostly Haitians living in The Bahamas illegally. They also pose as sanctuaries for criminals and have their own community strategies for commerce and electricity; more often illegal businesses and ways of obtaining free public utility services.

Most of these Shanty-Towns are poor environments. They are owned by slum-landlords hustling for the almighty dollar at the expense of  national security, and most certainly these illegal immigrants pay rent to these slum-landlords.

There are reportedly a few cases around the islands where these Shanty-Towns are built on government, or "Crown-Land", owned by the state. These immigrants have also reported on many occasions that they pay rent to a landlord.

The sheer cost and net loss/benefit of immigrants is another cause for concern. No data or analysis has been brought to bear on how much does illegal immigration cost over the long term for The Bahamas, but it's something I am keen to look more closely on and in the process of doing so.

But for the American experience, and no doubt the methodologies can be used as a guideline for examining the issue, NGO's like The Federation for Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR) and The Heritage Foundation, have made a few estimates.

FAIR, in their 2010 study, estimates that:
"The net federal outlay for illegal aliens represents an annual expense of nearly $288 ($193 net) per household headed by a U.S. citizen. The average outlay at the state level for the same family is about $1,130 ($996 net), for a total of about $1,205 ($1,075 net).”
For an economy as large as The United States of America, for the average citizen to have a net-loss as a result of illegal immigration, should speak volumes to what smaller nation-states experience with regard to the burden of illegal immigration.

More importantly, the issue of illegal immigration is a national and international security issue.
Post 9-11, the world has changed. The borders in the USA and Europe are more closely scrutinized. One cannot simply travel to and through the USA as one wishes.
When we put all of that in the context coupled with the developments taking place in Iraq and Syria, with American born citizens and also reported Caribbean citizens becoming radicalized and seeking to join in with groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Jihad, one can only imagine the cause for concern for small-nation states in The Caribbean.
A more important concern is too for America, as The Bahamas is right on their doorstep. On their doorstep and with only an inkling of who is really living in The Bahamas, the manner in which they got here, the nature of their business and what their intentions are while here.  
Without a doubt what took place with regard to the slack policies, and sub-human conditions illegal immigrants found themselves living in The Bahamas, seeking to correct those issues from a moral and practical standpoint must be taken very seriously as we move forward.
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