Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

Immigrants have been front and center in the media in the last couple of months. With the recent crime wave on the island, the locals and some mainland transplants have been up in arms to stop the unchecked flow of immigrants to our islands. Some argue that visas should be required of the mainlanders. But before we start issuing the Roatan Passport let’s see if this is possible from a legal standpoint.

My grandmother immigrated to the United states of America over 50 years ago, I have migrant aunts, uncles and siblings who are proud to call the US their home. When arriving at Ellis Island in 1900 vastly European emigrants had pass a physical exam, read 40 words in English, and were asked about their felony past, willingness to work and prove sufficient funds ($25) to be let in. So where should we stand on crossing borders and when does it become too much to send us your downtrodden? I understand, better than anyone, the arguments for both sides of the migrant crisis and who it affects.

It is hard for Hondurans to stop other Hondurans from crossing what amounts to a departmental line drawn in a water. It’s as if Florida suddenly decided too many Americans were retiring there and refused US citizens entry across the state line. Well, it’s a similar scenario for the islands and the mainland, but here’s the kicker – we are an island with limited natural resources and finite jobs. We don’t have enough water to supply the existing population and maintain necessary levels of hygiene. If you don’t believe that, ask someone from Los Fuertes, or Balfate how many times a week they receive water. The public hospital doesn’t have running water. The courthouse doesn’t have a 24-hour water supply. We very well could be courting an public health epidemic of biblical proportions.

Still, every day we get a new batch of prospectors arriving on the ferry and on airplanes from the mainland in search of a better life, or a job, or just less violence. I, as most local attorneys, am a transplant to this island. But, while some people come to contribute to their new home, other come with poor intentions, or are fleeing authorities back home.

we should exercise some control over who is allowed to come and who is allowed to stay

The issue of immigration and border control is complicated. While we cannot deny anyone the right to freely move around the country, we can definitely apply some restrictions. On such a small island we should exercise some control over who is allowed to come and who is allowed to stay.

I believe anyone visiting for touristic purposes should be allowed to come with zero restrictions. There is a lovely system in San Andres, Colombia, a small island 400 kilometers east of Nicaragua’s coast: Colombian people are allowed to visit as tourist provided they have a hotel or holiday package booked or as residents provided they have a job offer from a local business, or a are starting a business venture that does not currently exist on the island. In this example, Colombians restricts other Colombians from visiting their own territory. They want to preserve the island for future generations, not bleed it dry in just a couple of years. They don’t want to scare off the tourists with never ending arrivals of beggars, thieves and murderers.

On Roatan everyone without a warrant for their arrest, or that isn’t running from the law should be allowed to visit. If you are investing in the island, or have proof of employment you should be allowed to stay. I’ll let the courts sort out if that violates the constitution, or not. These are the same courts that decided the whole controversy over a second presidential term and its de-facto prohibition in the Honduran constitution.