The Home Affairs minister and the Opposition Leader are at loggerheads over immigration.
Both Michael Fahy and Marc Bean took to the airwaves yesterday to outline their positions on whether long-time residents should be granted a path to Bermudian status thanks to a springtime judicial decision.
At the heart of the matter are more than 1,400 Permanent Residency Certificate (PRC) holders who have lived on the island at least since July 31, 1989, because of the judicial decision in May pointing out a loophole in immigration legislation, those individuals can now seek full Bermudian status.
Mr Bean, the Opposition Leader, ripped into the One Bermuda Alliance in a lengthy discussion with local radio host Sherri Simmons on Magic 102.7. He said the OBA was in the process of “disintegrating” and “imploding” and suggested the government’s decision not to pursue the PRC appeal was “arbitrary”, “irrational”, and politically unsavvy.
“They will disintegrate innately. They will implode innately. That’s just how natural law operates,” he said.
Mr Bean added: “I don’t think many in the One Bermuda Alliance realize the effects of this decision. I don’t think they realize it’s to their detriment.”
He specifically singled out Home Affairs Minister Fahy for criticism, referring to the minister as “power hungry” and “dictatorial.
“If you take those worst characteristics of the oligarchs and put them into one person, in terms of one spirit, one intent, one mindset, it’s Minister Michael Fahy.”
He called for a general election and encouraged Bermudians to protest the OBA by any means short of harming people or property.
“You can protest by not buying their products. That is your right.”
Mr Fahy, meanwhile, spoke at length on FM 89 about the PRC issue and defended the government’s handing of the judicial appeal that sought to overturn a judicial decision that paved the way to status for PRC holders.
“A lot of misinformation has continued to be perpetrated,” he said. “PRCs are not taking jobs from Bermudians because they’re already free of immigration control…that’s key.”
He framed the matter as a human rights issue, saying PRC holders have lived on the island for a longtime and contributed to Bermuda.
He also said immigration policies in Bermuda have divided families, with some siblings being having PRC status or full status while their brothers or sisters do not.
“These people have made investments in the country. I find it bizarre that we would say to people ‘I’m sorry, we got something from you, you’re not good to us anymore’.”
He pointed to a recent poll that found 57 per cent of 404 Bermudian voters surveyed supported granting PRC holders Bermudian status.
He said of the 1,455 PRC holders, 578 are of British descent, 540 are of Portuguese descent and 157 are of Jamaican descent, while the remainder hail from a myriad of places, including the US, Barbados and the Republic of Ireland.
“I’m not going to presuppose which way any of these individuals will vote,” he said. “To us, it’s completely irrelevant.”
The advocacy group Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB), meanwhile, released a position paper yesterday that contended granting full status to more than 1,400 people was the latest in a historical pattern of “watering down” the black Bermudian vote (see story this page).
The CURB paper chronicles the racist gerrymandering and voter discrimination that has plagued the island’s history. CURB is urging the government to “take into account Bermuda’s oppressive and discriminatory history with regard to racialized immigration legislation and discriminatory voting rights”.
Mr Fahy acknowledged those concerns but was adamant that racial politics was not something that was “in anyone’s mind when it comes to talking about policy”.
He mentioned he was aware of today’s scheduled march, which is being organized by the People’s Campaign and the Bermuda Trade Union Congress and will protest the government’s handling of the PRC issue.
“I’m disappointed people want to march against people who have been here for 25 years,” he said. “I have a problem with that….but we will listen and we have listened.”