Monday, June 08, 2015

Immigration, citizenship, and globalisation

In their efforts to defend us from the Teeming Foreign Horde, Immigration NZ has long been in the habit of separating kiwis from their partners. But now they've plumbed new depths, by trying to seperate kiwis from their children:

A Kiwi's plan to return to New Zealand to raise his family is in limbo after Immigration New Zealand granted permanent residency to only one of his young sons.

German-born Andreas Mahon, 35, is a New Zealand citizen and has lived in Auckland on and off since 2004.

His Malaysian wife, Jo-Lene, holds a permanent resident visa and they have two overseas-born sons, Nolan, 13 months, and Liam, who is 3.

Liam has been diagnosed with Williams syndrome, a non-hereditary genetic condition, and Immigration NZ thinks he may be a burden on the health system.

This seems crazy. The parents are kiwis. They live in New Zealand. Surely their children should be allowed to as well? Secondly the very idea of treating children as independent from their parents on residency decisions seems crazy as well. What's a 3-year-old going to do? Say "sorry mum, sorry dad, guess I'll stay here without you"? Because no parent is going to abandon their child, the effect of such a decision is effectively to deprive the parents of their residency rights. And that seems absolutely unjustifiable (not to mention of questionable legality).

But this is also an example of what is likely to become a growing problem. Kiwis are highly globalised. For decades, young kiwis have been travelling the world on OE, meeting people, settling down, and having kids. Legally, we recognise those kids as kiwis, and rightly so. But what happens if they come home, then go off and do the kiwi thing again? They end up like Andreas Mahon. By two accidents of birth, his kids are legally foreigners, despite both their parents being kiwi and having a strong connection with New Zealand. And its easy to imagine worse examples. What if Mahon had returned to New Zealand as a child, rather than an adult, and lived here all his life, before leaving on OE and meeting someone? I suspect we'll be seeing those sorts of cases soon.

The fundamental problem here isn't just Immigration's cruelty and overriding urge to exclude people from New Zealand - its that the Citizenship Act 1977 was written in a different age, when people were less mobile, and shifts overseas more permanent. That's no longer the case - and the law needs to recognise this. Starting with recognising that citizens by descent who have returned to New Zealand are full citizens, not second-class ones.