Column: Attorney-General On Pathway To Status

February 24, 2016

[Opinion column written by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz]

By now, most Bermudians will be aware of the Government’s proposals to provide new pathways to permanent residency and to status. These proposals are aimed squarely at bringing Bermuda in line with baseline international standards established not just in international law but also in competing small island-jurisdictions such as Anguilla, the Caymans and BVI.

There have been some concerns about Government’s “Pathways” proposal expressed in recent days. My genuine belief is that this is the right thing do, and I am certain that Bermudians of all backgrounds share this view. Bermudians have always been a compassionate group of people; sometimes it is easy to forget that the loudest voices are not necessarily the most widely-shared views.

In the early 1990s, I ran on the issue of the plight of long-term residents with no prospect of obtaining Bermudian status after the status grant system we had in place in the 1980s was abolished. Those legislative changes led to much fear and concern amongst a segment of Bermuda’s residents who had long called Bermuda home.

Trevor Moniz 160223

Partly as a result of my advocacy, Government then introduced a pathway to status for non-Bermudians born in Bermuda or who arrived here before their 6th birthday. This was another ‘stop gap’ approach to immigration reform, and another moratorium on status was put in place for 1989 with applications to be made before 2008. All the same, those enactments came into force in 1994 and represented a vast improvement on the status quo, and there were no quotas.

In 1997, the UBP Government then introduced the ‘Working Resident’s Certificate’ which was a grant of semi-permanent residency to long-term residents conditional upon retaining their job.

Soon after the PLP came to power, the then Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon Paula Cox put out proposals by Government to introduce a Permanent Residents Certificate. A group of concerned citizens formed the ‘Coalition on Long Term Residents’ which advocated for full Bermudian status for all Long-Term Residents.

This Coalition included Foster Burke, Shurnett Caines and Judith Swan, representing the West Indian community, and Eddy DeMello, Robert Pires and myself, representing the Portuguese community. It was the case then, and it continues to be the case today, that Long Term Residents represent the cultural mosaic that is modern-day Bermuda.

Minister Cox held a series of meetings in 2000 and 2001. Unfortunately, those meetings involved expressions of strong emotion against extending rights to Long Term Residents. However, it was our belief then that these sentiments did not represent the mainstream views of Bermudians. Our belief was then confirmed when Walton Brown’s polling firm tested the views of Bermudians in 2000: 50.6 % of islanders felt that long-term residents should be granted status, 42.9 % were against, while 6.5 % were undecided.

Walton Brown stated at the time that the poll was strongly reflective of Bermudians’ opinion and that its size of 403 respondents was a great number in Bermuda to work with and predict trends. I agree.

I believe that a majority of Bermudians has always supported granting Long Term Residents a pathway to status. This was confirmed recently. A poll conducted in 2014 showed that 57% supported granting permanent residents Bermudian Status, 33% were opposed, while 9% were undecided. 404 people participated in that poll which is basically the same sample size as in 2000. Another poll in 2015 showed a significant majority of 69.5% in favour of granting Bermudian status to long term residents who have been in Bermuda for 25 years or more. 24.8% were opposed and 5.7% were unsure.

In addition, a recent Bernews poll, based on 1715 responses, showed 75% in favour of Government’s proposed ‘Pathways to Status’. The Royal Gazette shows 69% in support based on 6713 responses. These are clearly unscientific polls, but they nonetheless confirm the trends shown in the scientific polls: support for ‘pathways’ has trended upwards over time, while opposition has trended downwards. No political party has ever polled as high as ‘Pathways’!

The PLP also recognizes these trends. Their position in 2001 was that ‘Pathways’ to status for Long Term Residents would only be provided on Bermuda becoming independent. Today, they concede the need for immigration reform right now, and implicitly, the need for granting permanent residency and status.

To his credit, Opposition Leader, the Hon Marc Bean said in his 2014 Reply to the Throne Speech that a future PLP Government would  “address the issue of Bermuda status grants–how they are to be granted going forward and what criteria need to be met; what number of PRCs should be issued on an annual basis.” Such a policy would address “equal political status for individuals in a family rather than the current circumstance where one sibling could hold Bermuda status and the other have no rights at all to permanent residence.”

I remind everyone of Government’s Throne Speech commitment from 2013:

“In order to conform to human rights obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, the Government will move forward with amendments to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 to provide pathways to Bermuda status for persons born in Bermuda or persons who have been adopted by Bermudian parents.”

Various decisions of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal and the Supreme Court case of Carne and Correia necessitated an expansion of our approach.

There is clearly some difference between the two main political parties on the question of Pathways. This is natural, and healthy dialogue is the cornerstone of democracy. At the end of the day, however, the OBA was elected to govern Bermuda in 2012. As such, it is the Government’s prerogative to propose laws, and it will be the Legislature’s prerogative to consider and scrutinize those laws.

The longer we wait to address the question of Long Term Residents, the more uncertainty we add to the lives of non-Bermudians and the more likely it is that we lose model citizens who have demonstrated their long-term commitment to Bermuda.

As I said, Bermudians are fundamentally compassionate. We are not as divided on the question of ‘Pathways’ as some commentators might have us believe. This was true in 1992. This was true in 2000. This was true in 2014. This is true today. And this will be true well into the future.

Let’s do the right thing.

- Attorney General Trevor Moniz

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Comments (38)

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  1. Ed Case says:

    You are preaching to the converted mate.

    Unfortunately, those who oppose won’t be reading this, they will be listening to hate radio instead. They will be whipped up into a frenzy of racial hatred, and told to go and make noise up the house tomorrow.

    Too stupid to know any better, too stupid to realize that we need more people here, too stupid to vote anything but PLP.

    • Kiskadee says:

      Yep – sadly, you are absolutely spot on, Mr. Case. Clearly the PLP voters don’t seem to be able to connect any of the dots… 600+ people leaving is what lowered the job availability rate, the money being spent here, etc etc.

    • Paul Revere says:

      Mr Case, i find it quite funny, that the current AG was also a member of the UBP, which uprooted and kicked out people in the 80′s.
      What shall be said about that?
      You all are so quick to judge and condemn the PLP with your rhetoric, when your own are just as guilty of the same.
      We all know what this is really about, but you refuse to admit it.

      • Kiskadee says:

        It’s really about a mature community doing the right thing for people who have been productive and dedicated members OF our community for many, many years. It’s really about having a pathway to citizenship, or at least a PRC, which the majority of developed countries have.

        Is that too difficult for you to understand? Or do you insist on seeing everything through your xenophobic, closed-minded, hate-based angry lens? Grow up.

        • Paul Revere says:

          You really believe it’s about doing the right thing?

          My mind is far from closed and I am not afraid of you or any other foreigner who feels it’s their right to obtain status simply because they have spent X amount of years here.

          I can’t go to the US, Canada or the UK and after 5,10 or even 20 yrs expect that I should get citizenship and be afforded the same voting rights as someone born here.

          Why must we make it so easy for them? Even though you will say the same thing over and over, blah blah, they been here X amount years and it’s the right thing to do, you and most are forgetting one important part in this whole issue.

          The majority of these long working xpats have a place to call home and can go back there whenever they so wish, just like how they send their dollars home to help out their families.

          So please stop making it out to be a human rights issue. The ONLY human rights issue would be for someone who is considered stateless.

          • Edmund Spenser says:

            “I can’t go to the US, Canada or the UK and after 5,10 or even 20 yrs expect that I should get citizenship and be afforded the same voting rights as someone born here.”

            Not true, though details and requirements vary:
            US = 5 yrs
            Canada = 4 Yrs
            UK = 5 Yrs
            As legal permanent residents. I believe the wait is shorter for Bermudians applying in the UK.
            It is a human rights issue that the US, Canada and the UK comply with.

            • LOLOLOLOLOLOL says:

              Not sure about UK or Canada, but for the US you are forgetting something. After those 5 years you are eligible to apply for US citizenship, you are not granted it. And once you go through the rigorous process (trust it is a very long one) you must pass an exam. Yup, an exam!

          • A few queries says:

            You need to check the immigration policies of the counties you mentioned. You’re right that it doesn’t take 20 years to achieve citizenship. It takes considerably less time than that.

            Even better check the pathways to citizenship offered by our Caribbean cousins down south.

            Bermudians, as overseas territory citizens, that reside in the UK have the right to vote in all, their elections automatically.

          • Kiskadee says:

            You absolutely can go to the US and Canada and have a pathway to citizenship. You do realize that those who do attain citizenship of other countries this way were not stateless to start with, don’t you?? By the way, maybe you aren’t aware that as a Bermudian, you are considered a British citizen and can have a full British passport. So there’s your UK problem solved.

            Here is the pathway to US citizenship:

            Path to U.S. Citizenship

            The most common path to U.S. citizenship, which allows a green card holder (permanent resident) of at least 5 years to apply for naturalization.

            If you are a green card holder of at least 5 years, you must meet the following requirements in order to apply for naturalization:

            1. Be 18 or older at the time of filing
            2. Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
            3. Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
            4. Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
            5. Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
            6. Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
            7. Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
            8. Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law

            So there you are. The pathway to citizenship all spelled out for you for the USA. We do not have any such thing here. And we should. Nice try on your part though – and you tried pulling the race card. Shame on you.

            • LOLOLOLOLOLOL says:

              You forgot the required exam that one must take in order to obtain citizenship. But spot on with the rest of what you said.

        • Sickofantz says:

          Well maybe it is right. BUT looking at the examples given these people are not going to be creating jobs for Bermudians. They are already here on a permanent basis that’s what the P in PRC means.

      • Ed Case says:

        I am certainly glad you find that amusing Paul. At the time it was disgusting in the extreme and I complaioned about it. At least they are finally doing the right thing.

        At the same time, we both know that PLP has no intention of ever carrying out reform on this – and yet you refuse to admit it.

        PLP obviously has you hypnotized.

        • Paul Revere says:

          Trust me mate, I didn’t think it was funny then, and I don’t think it’s funny now.
          Some of the families were people I grew up with in the Spanish Point area, which was hit the hardest.

          I think you won’t admit that the OBA has made a mistake with what they propose, but are so eager to try and please a certain segment of the community, so it appears that they are a caring government.

        • LOLOLOLOLOLOL says:

          Referring to you first post, I’m a PLP supporter at heart, but do not agree with the things that have happened and certainly am in agreement with this proposed new pathway to status.
          What I am in disagreement with is what you said, “Too stupid to know any better, too stupid to realize that we need more people here, too stupid to vote anything but PLP.”
          To that remark I will stop to your level and say in my loudest Bermudian voice, YA MAMA!!!

    • rich says:

      Actually, those who oppose will do so regardless. They’re targeting more middle-of-the-road folks who might be on the fence.

  2. rhonda says:

    I am still waiting to read the OBA’s green paper on immigration.

    • Sickofantz says:

      What policies will be part of the PLP’s much talked about immigration reform? You say you want reform but nobody says what that reform will be? Please answer.

  3. San George says:

    You gave a bunch of people status before and you still lost the government. We love to watch you OBA byes struggle and devise ways to cheat. We only feel pity for you. Yet we rise!

    Quo Fata Ferunt

    • Double S says:

      Your support of the PLP actually means you love to see Bermuda struggle!

      As said in 1998 ‘Bermuda cannot afford the PLP.’ How right that man was then and still is today.

      The only thing rising is our PLP induced debt levels. And try marching against bondholders when they want what is due to them. No amount of sloganeering, threats or protests will stop them from get back their dollars.

      Keep it up Bermuda…

      • Johnny says:

        How can you blame the current debt levels on the PLP? They have been out of power for 5 years. The OBA promised to turn the ship around – that is why they were elected.

        Do you think that if the OBA had said vote for us and in 5 years we will triple our debt they would have gotten elected.

        Our debt is and has been the OBA’s responsibility from the moment they took office, and not only have they failed to make inroads as promised, but they have managed to triple the extremely high debt that they inherited.

        Obviously it is not good decision making that has gotten us where we are today.

    • Nanny Pat says:

      The PLP LOVE THE UNDER-EDUCATED VOTER.

  4. Good Grief says:

    If these long-time residents are not stateless, and they aren’t because they travel, giving them another citizenship is NOT a human right!!!

    Are we asking them to give up their citizenship to their home country? Why not? I only have status in Bermuda, why do they get to have two?!?

    • Annoyed says:

      That is ridiculous most of the kids that come here or are even born here have parents from a different country which is why they have citizenship there? If they live here all their life why can’t they have a PR or Bermudian Status? You know how many people have dual citizenship with other countries? What your saying is that because I’m Portuguese I don’t have the right to become Bermudian because I already have citizenship in Azores? Which is a country I don’t know and I have lived here for 23 years? I have more Bermudian Culture in me the my own!

    • LiarLiar says:

      You/we actually have status in the UK/EU simply by being Bermudian.

      No other developed nation, including all of our cousins down south, requires you to relinquish citizenship of one nation as a means to gain citizenship in theirs.

      Read up on the much more progressive pathways enacted by the Bahamas, St. Kitts, Barbados etc.

      Also, I suggest you read up on international law and conventions regarding this matter.

    • Matthew Sousa says:

      So a person that contributes to a country doesn’t have the right to call it home? get real.

    • Ed Case says:

      Your submission is a great example of ignorance due to misinformation spread by the PLP.

      As a Bermudian you have the right to go to the UK. You might not want to go there but you have that right nontheless.

      People who have been here 15 to 20 years should also have the right to be Bermudian. It is the right thing to do and it falls in line with international human rights.

      Still your PLP is pulling the race card cos they have no other argument. Just listen to hate radio. Pathetic Loser Party at work.

      • islandgal says:

        England is the Mother country she should help her British Territories, Bermuda & the rest of them. Sorry not feeling like everyone that has been here “working for the past 15 or 20 yrs. should have the right to become Bermudian. I think we have done good by them just having jobs for 15 & 20 yrs. That’s a good run if you ask me, all while I’m watching fellow Bermudians unable to obtain jobs in their own country.

    • just wondering says:

      I see – so one the basis of the fact that you only have one “status” then we should exclude all ex pats from having one?? what about the hundreds of Bermudians who live and vote and own properties in other countries as well as here in Bermuda – is that fair?? or is it just you we need to consider in all this?

    • Kiskadee says:

      Hey Good Grief

      You have the full right to live and work in the UK and anywhere in the EU as a full British passport holder, which you, as a Bermudian, have a full right to carry. Did you not know that? GOOD GRIEF!!!!

  5. Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

    The only people who are against this is the spoiled spoon fed individuals who now have to perform to a standard in order to be fed…you lot really don’t know the true meaning of life…life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!…hahaha…run Forest run!

  6. Bermy Realist says:

    It should be done on a case by case basis and not across the board or given to everyone…We can’t handle it, Bermuda is too small.

    Clearly this issue was created by the employers for keeping people too long and also immigration for failing to do due diligence and hence we now have this problem. very sad.

  7. Shari-Lynn Pringle says:

    “Bermudians have always been a compassionate group of people; sometimes it is easy to forget that the loudest voices are not necessarily the most widely-shared views.”

    The irony!

  8. clearasmud says:

    There is no doubt that there was a long term resident problem long before the PLP came to power. There is also no doubt that it was the PLP that made a genuine attempt to resolve the problem. This is acknowledged when the government blamed the loophole left by the PLP as the reason why they lost a court case on status. Mr. Moniz states that we must do this “In order to conform to human rights obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights,” yet he never says what exactly those obligations are. He has made this statement before but it would help if he clarified what they are and where we can read them for ourselves. If we had this obligation why were we in court in the first place?

  9. jahstice says:

    De PLP put us Bermudians out of jobs!

  10. Granting Status to Bermudians (non status). says:

    Bermudians are not stateless as they are British Overseas Citizens and British Citizens….they just as an expats can go somewhere else such as the UK if they so wish. In fact they as a British Citizen can live and work in the UK, European Union and have some opportunities with other Commonwealth Coutries.

    How do they qualify as BOTC and BCs?

    BOTC Act 2002

    British citizenship
    You automatically became a British citizen on 21 May 2002 if your British overseas territories citizenship was gained by connection with a qualifying territory.

    The qualifying territories are:

    Bermuda

    Human Rights violation is not granting citizenship to long term residents of Bermuda. Bermuda has 4 classes of Citizenship: Bermudian Status Holders (Can be BOTC Naturalised and no BOTC in some instances) all entitled to British Citizenship/EU rights, PRC, BOTC Belonger and Spouses of Bermudians. Under Constitution of Bermuda, the Bermuda Human Rights Act and Immigration and Protection Act are considered Bermudians under these laws…some albeit can not vote making them second class citizens of Bermuda which is contrary to Human Rights issue. Right to a Private Life Article 5 of European Human Convention Rights.

    Who is a Bermudian and is that different than holding Bermudian status? Actually under law their is 4 types of Bermudians on being a status Bermudian. Huh???

    The term “Bermudian”, however, is defined by the Human Rights Act, 1981 as being “a person having a connection with Bermuda recognised by the law relating to Immigration for the time being in force”.

    This is why the pathway becomes a human rights issues as Bermudians (non status) one are being treated differently due to their qualifying connection to Bermuda and is the human rights concern.

    While the “law relating to Immigration” refers to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act, 1956, it also refers to the Bermuda Constitution Order, 1968. The Constitution, in turn, recognises the rights of people who “belong to Bermuda” to reside and work in Bermuda while prohibiting laws that discriminate against such people on the basis of their “place of origin”.

    Those who “belong to Bermuda” include Bermudian Status Holders, Naturalised Citizens of the UK Overseas Dependent Territories, Spouses of Bermudians and Children under the age of 18 years whose parents “belong to Bermuda”.

    The Constitution has always protected naturalised BOT citizens as belongers in the same way as Bermudians.
    The Constitution says that belongers should not be discriminated against with respect to entry into employment, or engaging in any business or profession.

    Section 11

    Protection of freedom of movement
    11 (1) Except with his consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of movement, that is to say, the right to move freely throughout Bermuda, the right to reside in any part thereof, the right to enter Bermuda and immunity from expulsion therefrom.

    (5) For the purposes of this section, a person shall be deemed to belong to Bermuda if that person—
    (a) possesses Bermudian status;
    (b) is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by virtue of the grant by the Governor of a certificate of naturalisation under the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 [1914 c.17] or the British Nationality Act 1948 [1948 c.56];
    [NOTE by the British Nationality Act 1981 section 51 without prejudice to subsection (3)(c) thereof in any UK statutory instrument made before 1 January 1983 “British subject” and “Commonwealth citizen” have the same meaning and in relation to any time after 1 January 1983 means a person who has the status of a Commonwealth citizen under the British Nationality Act 1981]
    (c) is the wife of a person to whom either of the foregoing paragraphs of this subsection applies not living apart from such person under a decree of a court or a deed of separation; or
    (d) is under the age of eighteen years and is the child, stepchild or child adopted in a manner recognised by law of a person to whom any of the foregoing paragraphs of this subsection applies.

    But when deciding if its a human right item lets look at what some key humanists say on the subject:

    Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth.
    – Mohandas Gandhi

    Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself.
    ~ Robert G. Ingersoll

    In giving rights to others which belong to them, we give rights to ourselves.
    – John F. Kennedy

    Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
    – Robert F. Kennedy

    Commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.”
    – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.”
    – A. Philip Randolph

    By giving this rights to fellow classes of Bermudians (as defined under Bermudian law [being Bermudian does not necessarily mean you have status in Bermudian law just one of the classes of citizenship held as described above}). “Bermudian” means a person having a connection with Bermuda recognized by the law relating to Immigration for the time being in force (Bermudian Human Act, 1982). Should not all Bermudians have status? Be a BOTC belonger and British Citizenship? That’s the human rights issue, the compassion as King says above “…make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of Bermuda and a finer world to live in.” That’s what the pathway is about. Take the PLP and OBA politics out of it….do the right thing…for all classes of Bermudians.

  11. Flower power says:

    This just seems like a half baked idea. Why should the Bermuda government feel the need to create a pathway for guest workers. It’s not like they loss their right to return home. The land mass on this island is only so big. At what number will the government stop granting approvals to pathways when we reach a housing shortage, overcrowding of the hospital and long wait times for medical services or when our roads start to resemble third world countries and everyone driving in all directions. Human overpopulation will become a fast and serious concern for Bermuda if we proceed with this idea. It won’t be long before the population will exceed the islands capacity.

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