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Blocking Haitians because they are Haitians is Unconstitutional, think tank needed to find common ground

EDITORIAL – Wednesday March 28, 2018 – People everywhere feel passionately about who gets to live and work in their country.  It is a hot topic and the Turks and Caicos Islands is no exception.

In a press conference held last week, the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Washington Misick raised some interesting points, concerning points about the huge population of Haitians residing within these islands.

While everything he explained demands that the nation give more deliberate attention to how we ought to build the already cosmopolitan society that the TCI is, it is an inescapable fact that it would simply be unfair, unethical and most significantly, unconstitutional for the Turks and Caicos Islands Government to establish a law or system that automatically denied a human being access to opportunities based strictly on their nationality.

Section 16 of the 2011 Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution makes it plain that it is wrong to create a law or policy that levels a specific treatment toward any sector; especially if law or policy is designed to block privileges other residents or potential residents, enjoy.

Section 16 says:

Protection from discrimination 16.—(1) Subject to subsections (4), (5) and (8), no law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect. (2) Subject to subsections (6), (8) and (9), no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority.

The section of the Constitution goes on to define what is meant by discriminatory:

(3) In this section, “discriminatory” means affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions such as by race, national or social origin, political or other opinion, colour, religion, language, creed, association with a national minority, property, sex, sexual orientation, birth or other status whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another such description are not made subject or are accorded privileges or advantages which are not accorded to persons of another such description.

 The responses and reaction to the comments made by the Minister of Border Control, Hon. Sean Astwood – who since last year announced that first time work permits applications from anyone would not be accepted; and the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Washington Misick – who believes the country ought to develop a quota system to balance who can apply for a work permit for the first time, need a proper forum for sensible consideration.

It is clear that residents have burning ideas about this controversial issue.  It is clear that both sides of our government agree that some controls need to be enforced.  What is less clear is whether the Turks and Caicos is prepared to formalize the variety of ideas in a way that gives equal opportunity to anyone applying for permission to work and live in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Our constitution is important and clear that we cannot pick and chose who we treat this way or that at any level, especially at the national one.  Anyone should be able to apply for a job advertised, no matter their nationality.  For any number of reasons, their application can be denied, but it should never be based on the colour of their skin, whether they are a woman or man, because they are Haitian or American, because they are homosexual or whether they are Anglican or atheist.

Students say we need lecturers at the Community College.  So if we find one or two who come qualified and willing from Haiti, should they then be rejected because there are Haitian?  If the RitzCarlton or one of the other five major developments coming on stream need unskilled workers for construction phase and if we can find 100 or 200 Haitians to make up the numbers, should we reject their applications just because they are from Haiti?  If we were to find a qualified Haitian man or woman to support our agricultural development, are we saying that we should reject them purely based on the fact that they are Haitian?

No.  It is not only in contravention to what I believe is the spirit of what both the Minister and the LOO are trying to say, but it is flat out unconstitutional to ignore a decent and ready candidate just because they come from Haiti.

Do that, and no telling who is next;  Jamaicans, Dominicans, Africans, Canadians, Barbadians, Cubans, Europeans, Guyanese, Bahamians or Americans?  It cannot and should not happen because to deny a human being because of where they are born is unconstitutional, so we must come up with an equitable way of determining the expatriate labour force.

Many countries have figured it out.  Perhaps it is time to copy off of their paper.

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