Do you know why illegal immigrants don’t take our laws seriously? Because Bahamians don’t take them seriously. Do you know why illegal immigrants break the law? Because we break the law. And it won’t stop. Do you know why? Because we don’t enforce laws across the board.
Bahamians love to complain about illegal immigrants. We want them gone. They put a strain our resources. They take our jobs. What jobs? The jobs we have said repeatedly that we don’t want?
Let me let you in on a little secret. We have an illegal immigration problem because we, the people, won’t stop hiring them. That’s right. We want cheap labour. So, we hire them as landscapers, housekeepers or construction workers.
They, in turn, see The Bahamas as a viable economic source, so they tell others back home that the jobs are here. Opportunities are here. So, some risk rough, dangerous seas on an unfit boat to come here for work. And they don’t stop. Why should they? Jobs are here.
When that happens, Bahamians get upset and claim too many of them are coming here. We want them gone. They need to leave now. Oh, but, not our landscaper or our construction worker or our housekeeper. No, leave them alone.
My fellow Bahamians, you cannot have it both ways. You either want a country overrun with illegal immigrants in order to save a few bucks, or you pay the price to hire a licensed company. It’s that simple.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis says he knows that businesses in Abaco, which was hit by Hurricane Dorian, are hiring at this time. He warned them not to hire illegal immigrants.
“We will check and you will be dealt with severely,” he said.
Whatever that means. Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, I have little faith in our government’s ability to enforce this nation’s laws. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I’ve found that we don’t like to enforce laws. We just like to talk about enforcing them.
Out of curiosity, how many employers do you think have been fined and actually sent to prison for breaking the law. I think those figures are embarrassingly low.
If the government would do its job, we could properly deal with this problem.
Companies need to be heavily fined for not verifying work authorization documents. Too many companies are unwilling to do the proper due diligence to ensure that they are complying with the laws and hiring people with proper work status. They’d prefer to risk everything to save a few dollars.
I certainly understand why they do it. There are rarely any checks to make sure that companies are operating above board.
The government has to create an atmosphere where people seriously fear hiring these undocumented migrants. If the financial well dries up, they will warn their fellow countrymen back home not to come.
Target Everyone From The Pauper To The Pulpit
But, the crackdown doesn’t need to just happen with major employers. Homeowners need to be targeted, as well as the smaller construction companies.
However, and this is most important, the law must be applied across the board. It cannot be one set of rules and enforcement for one set of people and a turning of the eye for another.
The government cannot arrest the retired man through Union Village and parade him before the court to set an example, but choke when it’s a former politician involved. It cannot publicly embarrass the shop owner for hiring an undocumented seamstress, but say nothing when some high-ranking priest hires a gardener with no proper work status. One rule. One law. One set of enforcement.
The Bahamas isn’t the only country that lets employers get away. In August, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made headlines after it arrested nearly 700 undocumented immigrants during a workplace raid, but sent the employers home without being charged. It is highly unlikely they will even face prosecution.
According to international media reports, they got away due to what has been referred to as the “knowingly loophole.” US employers like to play fool, as we say, and pretend like they didn’t “knowingly” hire undocumented workers.
We cannot afford to be like them. Everyone who takes part in the illegal transaction needs to be punished.
The government also needs to ensure that all nationalities are targeted. Don’t put Haitians under a microscope and put blinders on for the Filipinos or the Chinese.
What Needs To Happen
Perhaps the Immigration Act needs to be updated so that fines are stiff enough to discourage employers from hiring illegal immigrants.
There should also be a properly-staffed unit in the Immigration Department that regularly checks on companies throughout the country to ensure that their hires are legal. We should be conducting undercover stings regularly.
Lower income Bahamians need to realize that they are the ones who are most impacted by illegal immigrants. They also need to understand that the reason many of these employers seek out foreign workers is because they are unwilling to do certain jobs.
There is no shame in doing landscaping work or housekeeping. Sometimes, people think too small. If I were a landscaper, I would seek to have entire communities on lock. Offer different packages that people can afford. Neighbourhoods are always in search of trustworthy, talented landscapers who can regularly maintain their yards. There’s an opportunity to professionalize the industry and really make money. People just need to think outside of the box.
We all share the blame for our country’s illegal immigration problem. We cannot continue to break our own laws, then turn around and get mad when others do, too.
But, when we do break those laws, we need to be punished to the fullest extent. And we have to be willing to accept the consequences. Either that or don’t break the law.