Thursday, April 05, 2018

Immigration does PreCrime

Imagine you're an immigrant to New Zealand. You've happily gone about your business for years, working, studying, whatever, leading a normal life like any other kiwi. You've obeyed the law, paid your taxes, laid down roots on your path to residency or citizenship. Then one morning Immigration NZ knocks on your door with a deportation order. Not because of anything you've done, but because some people with some undefined demographic characteristics in common with yourself are statistically more likely to go to hospital, or get cancer, or commit crimes or something else they've arbitrarily decided is unacceptable. And so, because of the actions - or just sheer bad luck - of others, your life is destroyed.

This situation is absolutely, completely unjust. But its actually happening:

Immigrants could be on a fast track to deportation if they belong to a demographic group identified as being a burden on the country.

Immigration New Zealand has been modelling data - including age, gender and ethnicity - of immigrants to identify which groups most commonly run up hospital costs or commit crime.

It could then move faster to deport people instead of prosecuting them or allowing them to re-apply for visas.

Its harm team has been using information such as past immigrants' convictions and unpaid hospital debts to feed into its data modelling work.

Other work included which demographic groups made multiple failed immigration applications or made a large section of immigration fraud allegations.

But while its laundered by the label of "data mining" and "demographic profiles", this comes down to the same old prejudice: "immigrants are all criminals", "immigrants are just here to use our health system", "immigrants are all liars". Worse, its being used to target people for deportation "as an alternative to prosecution" - that is, to punish people without trial, or even charge. They're doing PreCrime.

Punishing people for things they have not done is the height of injustice. Punishing them for the actions of others - AKA collective punishment - isn't just unjust, it is banned by international law. We don't do either in our criminal justice system, because we recognise that it is unjust, and that the prejudices of police, however tarted up and laundered, are not a suitable basis for deciding guilt or innocence or consequences of this magnitude. But the decision to deport someone is of similar magnitude. We should not tolerate this sort of data-driven victimisation in our immigration system either.