Blacktip Island’s mayoral race thrust immigration reform to the forefront of island politics Thursday after former mayor Jack Cobia demanded the immediate deportation of half the foreign workers on the Caribbean island.
Cobia is hoping to unseat first-term mayor Neville Crab.
“We got lots of good people on this island just begging for work,” Cobia said. “There’s way too many scuba hippies doing jobs locals could be doing. Chuck out the foreigners, problem solved. The current administration’s silence on this speaks volumes.”
Island politicos call Cobia’s plan an electoral Hail Mary.
“Jack’s trailing badly in the polls, so he’s built a straw man to compensate,” government watchdog Wade Soote said. “Sure, jobs are scarce on Blacktip, but so are people. Anyone able to keep a job has one.
“And the current mayor’s silent because he’s a bloody hermit crab,” Soote added. That’s why we elected him. He says nothing and does nothing. Best mayor we’ve ever had.”
Cobia’s rhetoric, though, has struck a chord with some locals.
“Every job that goes to some off islander means one of us’s going without,” laborer Dermott Bottoms said. “Ship five of them out, five of us got jobs.”
“It’s getting too crowded here,” local James Conlee said. “I pass people on the road all the time now. That never used to happen, you know. Most of them’re expats.”
But not all voters agreed.
“Dermott and his pals complain, but none of them’ve ever been able to hold a job for more than a week,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Their issue’s not lack of work, it’s lack of beer money.”
With immigration reform talk driving his poll numbers higher, Cobia has upped his effort in recent days.
“All the foreign workers are concentrated around the resorts on the west coast,” Cobia said. “We’re gonna put up a barbed-wire fence to keep them off the rest of the island.”
Cobia declined to disclose how he plans to finance the proposed fence or where he would acquire barbed wire on Blacktip Island.
“There’s plenty of backers, I guarantee,” Cobia said. “And willing workers. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.”
Despite Cobia’s recent rise in the polls, experts doubt it will be enough to carry the election in the fall.
“There’s only five registered voters on Blacktip Island,” Soote said. “And three of them are in jail on drunk-and-disorderly charges.”
Cobia, meanwhile, remains upbeat.
“Even if I don’t get elected, at least I got people talking about important issues,” he said.