Our newly appointed “King” Fahie (see government press release) may have called a National Day of Prayer for today but I am afraid he and God have an uphill task in convincing our die-hard xenophobic “born-here” Virgin Islanders to be nice to foreigners.
I agree with his proposal to fast track applications for residency and belongership for those who have been here for 15 years or more, but the ability to do this was already in the Immigration Act. It has only been civil servants and ministers over the years who have stonewalled applications — or lost them or ignored them — through some dislike of migrant workers. It could just have been done quietly, not to avoid confrontation, as was done recently with over 200 being granted citizenship.
But now we know how dire and disgusting the situation is. If, as reported, over 5,000 people have applied for the fast track (now put on hold), that is only those who have been waiting more than 15 years (and all of those may not have applied). Then there are those who have been here zero to 15 years. But all of them are here by agreement with the government—including the Labour and Immigration departments — and employers, or have set up businesses which employ Virgin Islanders and have contributed to society in their work, and by renting property, paying taxes, shopping, supporting churches, clubs and so on. Many have really settled by marrying and having children and really want to make this their home. Besides which, we now have an economy that is too large for the “indigenous” population to manage, and things would collapse quickly if expatriates were all sent “home.”
Sea Cows meeting
I attended the public meeting in Sea Cows Bay last Thursday. There was silence for the first hour while Third District Representative Julian Fraser explained the Immigration Act and the proposed amendments. The three members of the opposition present were almost dumbstruck. They had little advance notice and no consultation before the bill was presented, and were at a loss for what to say as the audience demanded that they “do something.” It soon became clear that many present were very much against granting any rights to non-belongers, and saw nothing wrong in them being here 15 to 30 years with no security of tenure.
The comments included, “We must protect our citizenry from being overtaken by invaders;” and “They can always go home if they don’t like it.” I am actually disgusted at some of the vitriolic comments both at the meeting and online.
Sure they can “go home,” but as I said the economy would collapse if they all did that.
So many of the speakers and commentators speak with forked tongues. Many were born in the United States, marry outsiders, and have children in the US and send them to overseas schools. Some of them find life overseas so much more to their liking that they don’t come back.
People do not seem to understand that this fast-tracking is for people who have been here a long time. They are already here, and there will not be a great influx of foreigners being able to buy land and property. It is not possible to arrive with a 15-year residency record and take over the territory.
Clearing the backlog
It would seem that the premier (to demote him back to his real title) will pull the bill at the next HOA meeting, but I urge him to continue pushing the civil service to work towards clearing the backlog. There should not be a backlog. There is nothing in the law to say that someone who has completed all the requisite conditions should not be granted status at the next Cabinet meeting. There is no limit on numbers in the act.