NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — A judge agreed on Thursday to review new immigration rules at the request of a Bahamian-born woman of Haitian descent.
Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Bain granted the review after hearing an application filed by 21-year-old Widlyne Melidor, who asserts the island chain denied her medical care while she was pregnant with her fourth child. She also claims her 5-year-old son was not allowed access to a primary school in the Bahamas because the family does not possess Haitian passports.
The unemployed woman and her lawyer, Fred Smith, say immigration rules imposed by the government on Nov. 1 are aimed at making the Bahamas less hospitable to a swelling population of migrants lacking legal status.
Under the rules, everyone living in the Bahamas must have the passport of their nationality and, if they are not a Bahamian citizen, a valid residency or work stamp. In addition, the government tightened the process for employers to get work permits for non-Bahamians and requires first-time applicants for residency permits to apply in their “home countries.”
The rules are very challenging for people who were born in the Bahamas to parents who migrated illegally. While the constitution allowed those people to apply for Bahamian citizenship, many did not apply.
Before people like Melidor can seek legal status, they first need to obtain passports from “home countries” they may have never seen.
Human rights lawyers and activists here and abroad have condemned the regulations as unjust. But the government says many Bahamian citizens support the new immigration rules.
Like other countries and territories in the region, the Bahamas has been a magnet for migrants who often arrive in overloaded boats. A report last year said that more than 18 percent of the country’s roughly 360,000 residents are foreign-born.