BCA President supports proposed three-strike Immigration policy

BCA President supports proposed three-strike Immigration policy
Leonard Sands, former president of the Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA).

NASSAU, BAHAMAS —The Bahamas Contractor Association (BCA) president Leonard Sands yesterday supported a proposed three-strike immigration policy, telling Eyewitness News “It’s the first step in the right direction.”

Sands was responding to recent statements by Minister of Immigration Keith Bell, who suggested employers could receive fines for breaching the law in the first two instances, and on the third violation, the employer would be brought to court and charged for their infraction.

Sands said: “Companies have to take personal responsibility for their part in it. If they want the situation to be better, well then be accountable to the process which would mean that if they break the law there are penalties. I think that’s the responsible position for any business.”

“You would’ve had three chances to do the right thing and obviously after the third time a court could then say I think you are not minded to do the right thing.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Phillip Davis declared that the government would pursue the employers of shantytown work permit holders and oblige those employers to seek proper living arrangements for their employees while under their binding contract.

In a previous interview, Sands shared that many employers are guilty of breaching the law which allows foreigners to attain working permits illegally.

“The government should go after them who got the work permits,” he said.

“There’s a responsibility for the person who made the application but there is a follow-up responsibility of the agency to ensure that the person who has made the application is abiding by that application. That’s the responsibility of the Department of Labor and Immigration.”

Before an applicant receives a work permit, Sands stated that a valid address is required for a work permit to be processed. The document is then signed by the applicant and the employer/sponsor before a work permit is granted. As a result, an applicant would not be approved if they hold no regulated living address.

Sands said: “Many persons in the construction industry will have to look at their labor and determine whether they want to invest in training Bahamians or continue to break the law in certain instances by hiring persons who they know do not have regularized housing.”

According to the BCA president, the country has cultivated a reliance on foreign workers but they are not a necessity.

He estimated that around 50 percent of workers in the construction industry hold work permits despite what the data shows.

“I have always maintained that our current workforce is enough to handle everything, however, we’ve become lazy, and instead of training our own workforce we’ve become comfortable with importing labor,” Sands said.

He continued: “Now, we’re not saying everyone is illegal or everyone entered the country and doesn’t have work permits, but we’re saying there are categories of breach of the law.”

Although he addressed the significant impact that would arise when illegals are sent home by the government, Sands was confident that the country was able to recover.

“I personally don’t believe that we need the numbers that we allow in our workforce, but I again, reaffirm the fact that when we start to then ask those persons to leave it will have an immediate effect on the workforce in the short term.”

“I think in the long term it will maybe force the Bahamian workforce to be trained to do the work that is currently being taken up by the number of foreigners who are in the country illegally or in The Bahamas legally but not in regularized housing,” he stated.

In fact, the president encouraged women who are interested in the field to join the force as there is a demand for their expertise in the sector.

“Persons need to recognize that more and more females are becoming interested in the technology sector and so we need to do more to promote their interest in it,” he added.