Monday, July 14, 2008

The Immigration Bill: it affects you

The Immigration Bill doesn't matter because it only affects foreigners, right? Wrong. The bill will affect thousands of kiwis, and people we think of as kiwis, who have lived here in some cases for decades. How? One example was given by Steve on The Standard - his partner, an Estonian, was once denied entry to Sweden due to a misunderstanding over transit visas. Later, she immigrated to New Zealand. Under the Immigration Bill, she would never have been allowed into this country. "So what", you ask? Well, consider the number of kiwis who meet their partners on their OE. Now consider what the combination of ordinary bureaucratic fallibility (and it happens) and an inflexible and punitive law means for their relationships. Few people check out their partner's complete travel history before shacking up - but under the Immigration Bill, people will be forced to choose between their family here and their new family overseas. And that's just wrong.

Or a second example: we all have family, and in the case of many Pakeha New Zealanders, members of that family came from overseas in the relatively recent past. They may have come from the UK or another Commonwealth country, back when there was a de facto "whites only" immigration policy and entry was easy for "Commonwealth citizens". Or they may have come from Australia more recently, under the scheme which allows freedom of travel and residency between the two nations. Either way, they could have lived here for decades, paid taxes, voted, raised kids and grandkids and contributed to the community. But unless they normalised their status - and few British migrants, and even fewer Australians, bothered to do so - they are not citizens, but permanent residents. And that means they can be arbitrarily arrested and indefinitely detained by any immigration official or police officer, or deported back to a "home" they have not seen for half a century. Whichever way you look at it, that's just wrong; no-one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention, and the idea of being able to deport long-term residents, kiwis in every way bar the paperwork, is deeply abhorrent. But the bill will allow it. While the government will no doubt argue that "the innocent have nothing to fear", mistakes happen. And with the powers granted by this bill, the consequences of those mistakes are vastly magnified.

This bill doesn't just affect foreigners. It affects kiwis as well. Most of us probably know someone who could fit either of the above scenarios. If you do, then sign the petition, and let the PM know what you think of her law.