Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Citizenship for Bahamian-born Haitians

One of the biggest challenges facing the Bahamian-born children of Haitian immigrants is that they are not automatically granted citizenship on the basis of the fact that they were born in the Bahamas. Instead, they are only eligible to apply for Bahamian citizenship between their eighteenth and nineteenth birthdays and, if they miss this narrow window of opportunity, they are no longer eligible for citizenship on the basis of their birth in the Bahamas.


This policy has been problematic for a number of reasons:

First, many Haitian-Bahamians miss the deadline because they are not aware of their legal rights or they simply do not know how to go about filing the necessary paperwork properly. Since their parents often have minimal education and, sometimes, little communication ability in English, they do not receive much help from home when the time arrives to begin the application process.

Second, even when Haitian-Bahamian young people submit the properly completed paperwork at the correct time, there is no guarantee that their application will be processed in a timely fashion, that it if processed it will be approved, or that it will even be processed at all.

Third, inability to obtain Bahamian citizenship makes it difficult, if not impossible, for promising Haitian-Bahamian young people to pursue a college education. Without citizenship, they are charged foreign tuition rates instead of resident tuition rates at the College of the Bahamas and they are unable to obtain a passport to pursue scholarship opportunities overseas.

Finally, the current citizenship laws--in effect since the time of Bahamian independence in 1973--are a radical departure from those that were in effect under British colonial rule or are presently in effect in neighboring countries (e.g., the Dominican Republic and the United States) that must deal with large numbers of children born to Haitian immigrants.

With these things in mind, I am pleased to read in the Nassau Guardian that a commission appointed by the Bahamian parliament has recommended changes in the Bahamian constitution that will insure that Bahamian-born children of immigrant parents (of any nationality) will automatically be granted Bahamian citizenship if they apply at the age of eighteen and meet a ten-year residency requirement. While I would prefer to see that children of immigrants be awarded citizenship automatically on the basis of their birth in the Bahamas (especially if their parents are legally residing in the Bahamas at the time), these changes--if implemented--will be an important step in the right direction towards making children of immigrants first-class citizens of the Bahamas with all of the legal rights and privileges that such citizenship entails.

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4 Comments:

At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 5:57:00 AM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bahamian citizenship law is much more complicated than you describe it, and already discriminates against various groups of Bahamian citizens, i.e. Bahamian men born abroad and women in general. Let's fix that first, before we create new citizens.

Your suggestion to give children citizenship if they're born in the Bahamas is a typical American-centric point of view, I may add. Just because your country does it that way, it doesn't have to be adopted by all others, too. There are countless countries around the world, even big first world nations, that do not grant citizenship to children born within its borders.

Finally, while I do have a great deal of understanding for the hardships of the Haitian-Bahamian/Bahamian-Haitian community, why can't the children of immigrants (in this particular case Haitians) keep their parents' citizenship. A quick Google search shows that they are indeed entitled to Haitian citizenship.

To address your point about education opportunities: If they hold Haitian citizenship, they can, with a Haitian passport, pursue an education abroad. Instead of giving them Bahamian citizenship, government may choose to approach the College of the Bahamas and ask them to grant resident tuition rates to foreigners, too, if they have lived in the Bahamas for a certain number of years.

Finally, I believe that if foreigners want to acquire Bahamian citizenship, they must show at least a certain commitment to this country, and, for instance, learn the language. We are not doing ourselves a favour by simply inflating our numbers by handing out passports.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 9:55:00 AM EST , Blogger haitianministries said...

Annonymous, Thanks for providing a Bahamian perspective on a most difficult issue. DS

 
At Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 12:34:00 PM EST , Blogger Hillary Daniel said...

Hi,

My family and I moved from Jamaica to Bahamas in 1989 because my husband was offered a job at COB as a Physics Lecturer. He is Indian by birth and citizenship. We had just been married for a year when we moved there and so I had my first child in the Bahamas in 1991. When it came time to get a passport for my son, we had the most awful dilemma! We were told that he could only get a travel document, so we tried getting him a Jamaican passport. Guess what? He couldn't get that either! Why? Because I was married to an Indian citizen and he had to take his father's citizenship unless he had been born in Jamaica. Hence, when I became pregnant a second time with my daughter, we travelled back to Jamaica so that she could have a passport. For my son, my husband had to travel to Washington D.C. to the Indian Consulate to get a passport for my son.

We enjoyed living in the Bahamas and though I wasn't permitted to work, we stayed there 10 years. After 5 contracts, my husband was being put on month to month work basis, which meant at any given time he could be told that his services were not needed anymore. We were told that he could be permanently employed if he applied for citizenship since we were there for 10 years. We tried, but though the college was willing to employ him on a monthly basis, it seemed immigration needed more and so after getting the runaround for months,we decided to look to the US for a job as Science teacher and physics teachers in particular were in high demand. My husband got called for three or four interviews within a week of posting his resume and was offered all the jobs, so we left the Bahamas after living there and contributing constructively for 10 years!

Now, my son turns 18 soon and though we will soon be able to apply for US citizenship, he wants to have his Bahamian citizenship. He was only able to live there 8 years of his life, so I guess even after attaining his eligible age, he won't be able to apply and succeed. Anna Nicole, however, was able to receive her citizenship at the snap of her fingers. Who says we're all equal in the eyes of the law?

 
At Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 3:10:00 PM EST , Blogger haitianministries said...

Hillary, Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story! DS

 

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