Governor’s Appointed Member Hon. Harold Charles wants to see the authorities go after all immigration lawbreakers, not just Haitian migrants.
Speaking in the House of Parliament as the government debated the Immigration Amendment Bill, Charles told the House of Assembly that until the playing field was leveled, he would support the Hon. Arlington Musgrove-piloted Bill.
He told the House that the authorities were only focusing on what he described as the low-hanging fruits, which he described as the minority, “and not the big boys, which are really taking advantage of those poor people…and that’s why I can’t support this bill today. I will support a bill of this kind, but I want to see something that is much more in balance.”
Charles also pointed to the matter of persons who applied for Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) for as longs as four years ago and were yet to get their documents…this, he said, was after they paid the obligatory $10,000 cost.
“From four years ago, those persons who paid for PRCs - $10,000 – some people paid from four years ago, and up to today they cannot get their document. And there are people who paid for work permits and not getting their documents,” he said, also pointing to those young people, many of whom he said were born in the Turks and Caicos Islands but were yet to get documents to deem them legal.
“We have a lot of teenagers, young men and young women in this country, many of them were born in Turks and Caicos. But they don’t have anything…they don’t have a piece of paper.
“What I would like to see immigration do first is to sort out all those young men and women that have no documents. And with all the people that have been in the Turks and Caicos Islands for 20 years and over…30 years without a piece of document…get that settled first and then we can come with those stiff laws, because I believe many of them are going to get caught up in this (new law).
“I know a gentleman who lived here for 27 years…he was driving his kids to school, he got caught up (in immigration checks). They took him out of his van, and then shipped him back to Haiti within five days or so. Twenty-seven years this man lived in Turks and Caicos…giving his sweat and labor to this country,” Charles lamented.
He declared that Haitians have been playing huge roles in the country’s development, and as such, they should be treated as fair as any other.
“If you go to most of the homes in the Turks and Caicos, there is a Haitian maid, there is a Haitian babysitter, there is a Haitian gardener,” Charles argued, noting also that Haitians were mostly the ones at the docks and other places doing the physical heavy-lifting.
“…They are part of us. Yes, we need laws. We need strong laws in this country. Yes, we do need to control our borders…it is important. But we must take care of those people who have been here for 20 years and over, all the young people who were born here have their document…legalize them first and then we can go ahead and deal with what we have to deal with.
“Because what I am afraid of (is that), they may get caught up in what’s going on. But like I said, I would be more than happy to support a bill of this kind, but not today. Until they get those people who have been here a long time sorted, and until the immigration department start going after those big companies (I cannot support this bill),” a resolute Charles stated.
The Haitian background businessman, who decades ago was granted Turks and Caicos Islander and BOTC Statuses, and also whose businesses have employed a variety of people, who he said included many Turks and Caicos Islanders, told the House of Assembly that there were big businesses locally that have been flouting the country’s immigration laws with impunity.
“I know of companies who (sic) come here, bring people on their constructions (projects). They bring top management, middle management, and even lower management. They took them from the (United) States and elsewhere. And I said, ‘where are the Belongers going to fit?’ what job do you have for Turks and Caicos Islanders?
“You have many little contractors and medium contractors here as well. This guy (a particular expat) is here doing business. In fact, this guy has been here for 17 years, never had a work permit…and I am going to tell you who it is…and you can tell him I said so.
“No one (from immigration) approached the man. He goes back and forth in and out of this country all the time. They know he is working, but yet, he is still doing business with no problem.
“I just want an immigration law or an amendment law that is fair…that is going to take care of what needs to be taken care of, which is some of the minorities that are suffering,” he said.