Friday, January 7, 2011

Cayman's Anti-Immigrant Lobby

Our MLAs are all captives of the anti-immigrant lobby, and likely to remain so. That means there is no hope that our Islands’ official hostility towards new immigrants (or old) will change any time soon. The longer the official policy of unwelcome endures, the less likelihood there is of our attracting enough new residents to make these Islands economically viable in the long term. The continuing tension between ethnic Caymanians and immigrant communities will continue to block any trust between private-sector employers and their ethnic-Caymanian employees. The glass ceilings will endure forever. All the political rhetoric in the world won’t solve the problem.

In several issues of the Cayman Net News last November, my “Everybody’s Business” columns explained the connection between the glass ceilings and Cayman’s inadequate education system- specifically, its failure to ensure that its pupils all learn to write in standard English. (CNN may still have copies of issues 2190, 2191 & 2192. If they don’t, e-mail me and I will send you copies of the original columns.)

The state education system’s weakness is that it measures success by the number of A-Levels gained. It pays little mind to children who aren’t in the A-Levels stream. Some Caymanian children are so far behind their peers when they enter kindergarten that they never catch up. Instead of acknowledging this fact, our politicians blame private-sector employers for not accommodating poorly educated Caymanians in the workforce.

The MLAs (all ethnic Caymanians, at the FCO’s insistence) lack the courage to face up to the facts and change them. They also lack commitment to Cayman’s long-term future. It’s much easier to build fancy new schools than to change the ethos of our education bureaucracy. Our tiny community ought to be better served by its representatives.

Politicians during the past forty years have chosen to nourish a culture of birthright-entitlement in their electors, as an alternative to a decent education. Most Caymanians from government schools are poorly equipped to compete with foreigners in office jobs at any level- especially in respect of written English. This inadequacy and culture are largely responsible for the resentment towards immigrants, and vice versa.

In all the platitudes trotted out by McKeeva and other public servants, this causality isn’t even mentioned. They are of course aware of it; but they never mention it in public. Their pious pleas to The Lobby to welcome new residents (or at least white middle-class “Offshore” professionals) are a waste of breath. The professionals are not taken in by rhetorical welcomes. They know that the smiles are false, and that our Immigration officials are available at a moment’s notice to harass or expel immigrants on the say-so of locals with influence in high places.

Those public servants who love playing favourites between different ethnic groups know the harm their game does to Cayman’s economic prospects, but they do it anyway. They can’t help themselves. Jamaicans, Filipinos, Latinos and Indians are discriminated against in the grants of Key Employee, Permanent Residence and citizenship. Immigration’s points-systems are biased against those nationalities, and there is little likelihood of change. The Immigration establishment is fighting a quiet war against McKeeva’s rhetoric, and they are winning hands down.

The best thing our rulers can do to ensure a prosperous 2011 is to look beyond their cronies for advice on how to recruit immigrants to the cause. That is really the only way out of the present cul-de-sac. Communal tensions will only be eliminated by radical changes in the rules governing the workforce.