LOPES: Addressing the Status of Undocumented Families in  Sint Maarten

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — There are pressing issues in Sint Maarten that demand our immediate attention, and one such issue is the  plight of children born to undocumented residents on Dutch Sint Maarten. This is a matter of utmost  importance that has long been neglected, and it is time we confront it head-on.  

These children, born and raised on our beautiful island, attend our schools and grow up as part of our  community. They are our neighbors, our friends, and integral members of Sint Maarten society.  However, upon completing their secondary education, these young individuals face an uncertain future  due to their undocumented status. Without a clear path to citizenship or legal residency, they find  themselves in a precarious situation, unable to pursue higher education or secure meaningful  employment.  

The current system leaves these young people in a state of limbo. They cannot be deported to their  parents’ countries, which are often unfamiliar to them, nor are they granted nationality or legal status  here in Sint Maarten. As a result, their potential is stifled, and they are often forced into low-paying,  entry-level jobs despite their education and aspirations.  

This situation is not only a grave injustice to these children but also a loss to our society. We are  depriving ourselves of talented and capable individuals who could contribute significantly to our island’s  development if only given the opportunity. It is imperative that we create a pathway to legal status for  these children, allowing them to fully integrate into our society and pursue their dreams.  

Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach:  

Implement Clear Legislation: Enact and/or amend laws that provide a legal framework for  granting citizenship or permanent residency to children born to undocumented residents who  have lived and studied in Sint Maarten for a significant portion of their lives. This legislation should also include pathways to legal residency for their parents, ensuring family unity and  stability.  

Establish Fair Policies: Implement policies that discourage individuals from taking  advantage of our system, while still promoting equality and fairness for all. This may include  residency requirements and other criteria that ensure only those genuinely contributing to our  society benefit from these changes.  

Facilitate Access to Education: Ensure that these children have the same opportunities for  higher education as their peers, including access to scholarships and financial aid.  

Collaborate with Regional and Kingdom Partners: Work with neighboring countries,  regional organizations, and as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, seek input and solutions  regarding citizenship. Ensuring that our policies are humane, effective, and in alignment with  broader regional and kingdom-wide strategies is crucial. 

Engage in Research and Stakeholder Consultation: Conduct thorough research and  engage with stakeholders to develop informed and sustainable solutions. It is my opinion that  doing nothing is not a solution. We must gather insights from all relevant parties to create  policies that are both fair and effective.  

My approach is solution-oriented and rooted in integrity, a value I have held since my teenage years. If  elected to the Parliament of Sint Maarten or appointed as a Minister, my sole responsibility will be to be  different and do differently. I am committed to finding solutions for matters that have been neglected for  far too long. Painting the outside of a house while neglecting everything that is crumbling inside is not a  solution.  

By taking these steps, we can transform the lives of many young people and strengthen the fabric of our  society. It is not just a matter of policy, but of justice and humanity. We owe it to these children, their  families, and to ourselves, to ensure that every resident of Sint Maarten has the opportunity to thrive and  contribute to our shared future.  

Let us commit to addressing this issue with the urgency and compassion it deserves. Together, we can  build a more inclusive and prosperous Sint Maarten for all.

LOPES Dreena Iola
Candidate # 9 on the NOW Party St. Maarten