Grand Bahama Human Rights Association Statement
by Fred Smith, QC
The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association cries shame on the Christie administration as a whole, and on Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell in particular, for attempting to give their inhumane, immoral and illegal immigration enforcement policy the veneer of legitimacy by forcing a bill through Parliament, where they enjoy a substantial majority.
In the first instance, the tactics currently employed by immigration officers to terrorize the Haitian-Bahamian community constitute clear violations of the Bahamas Constitution, the supreme law of the land.
Indiscriminate roundups and roadblocks are unconstitutional; the requirement that immigrants carry ID at all times is unconstitutional; detention without bail and in the absence of criminal charges is unconstitutional; and deportation without conviction by a court of law is unconstitutional. The government simply cannot retroactively legitimize such actions.
In addition, every child of Haitian parents born in this country has a legal right to apply for Bahamian citizenship at the age of 18, if they have lived in this country for 10 years prior to their application. Removing them from this country before their 18th birthday deprives them this right and is therefore illegal.
Deporting those who have submitted a proper application, but have been waiting for years without word from the government is a totally unconscionable practice. This is to say nothing of the moral outrage of snatching young children from their classrooms, imprisoning them without charge, then sending them to a poverty-stricken country of which they have no knowledge or experience.
As Mitchell and his colleagues are fully aware, the very act of bringing legislation in an effort to legitimate a policy already in place for more than a month, is a tacit admission that the Immigration Department has thus far acted illegally. As such, they risk exposing the government to court action by the hundreds if not thousands of individuals who have been harmed, terrorized or otherwise adversely affected by these draconian procedures.
The government is hereby forewarned that any Act passed by Parliament which seeks to legitimate the tactics used by the Immigration Department since November 1 will be subject to an aggressive constitutional challenge in the courts by the GBHRA.
I also invite all those who have been adversely impacted by the policy to contact me as soon as possible with a view to joining their names to a class action lawsuit, to be filed in due course.