Monday, 5 November 2018
Oh so now NZ wants to talk about about immigration!
Its funny isn't it that the immigration debate in New Zealand can limp along with barely any discussion on exactly how problematic the situation is for years until a Czech drug smuggler gets permanent residence then people loose their minds.
There has been some good coverage over time, such as Steve Kilgallon and Dileepa Fonseka's excellent series of articles on Stuff about exactly how widespread migrant exploitation in NZ is and how badly our immigration system is being rorted, but I have not herd the words "migrant exploitation" or "immigration rort" in the last six months as much as I have herd the words "Czech drug-smuggler" in the last week.
And perhaps its because there did not seem to be an obvious and easy way for the media or the desperately sinking National party to make a political football out the issue with those other two where as its been incredibly easy for people to focus down on the who and how of the recent decision rather than look at the bigger picture and ask exactly whats going on with immigration in this country.
Can we say dog whistle politics here. Yes we can.
Ian Lees-Galloway, as Minister of Immigration, made his decision about Karel Sroubek in one of the three following contexts:
1. Lees-Galloway (or one of his minions*) did not actually read past the cover sheet and just made their decision on the easy (but incorrect) emotion angle of the case,
2. Lees-Galloway read the file but the file the file did not have all the info so the decision was made with incomplete information, or
3. Sroubek was given residency as part of some deal with the Police, or some other agency, as part of his connection to the Hell's Angels and drugs smuggling in NZ.
Any of the above could be true but since we are listing facts about this case then lets list a few more.
4. Immigration NZ is run like a fast food franchise with lowly paid employees, quantity over quality decision making, outsourced and offshore functions** and a risk adverse senior management which knows the problems exist but will not face them,
5. Appeals to the Minister of Immigration only make it to their desk when ALL other avenues are closed and things are looking BAD (as in nobody wanted to approve your application), and
6. Its a total crap shoot when your case is gone to the minister for appeal, anything could happen.
In my five years at Immigration NZ I watched all sorts of cases get declined at every single other level and then go to the minister for final judgement and in some cases people that should definitely not be allowed into the country got to stay while those who had cases with the most compassionate grounds ever get rejected outright with no reason or explanation, because at that level the Ministers power is effectively absolute and there is no appeal if you loose (or in the case of those highly questionable individuals who got in: won).
That said the Minister can also make the right decision and one of the most heart wrenching cases of my career, that I was unable to approve despite it being a obvious "yes", finally got approved later by the Minister; to my utter happiness, and relief.
And for the record the Minister that I, and most of my fellow Immigration officers, felt made the best decisions was Michael Woodhouse.
For whatever reason when it usually needed to be declined he did and when it needed an approved he approved while, in my time at least, the worst Minister was Jonathan Coleman who we could only believe was deliberately doing the opposite of what should be done, every single time, as there seemed to be no other rational explanation for the atrocious range of appalling decisions he made (including allowing such a group of obviously questionable individuals to remain in NZ that I can only assume he had an obvious agenda to give residency to human rights abusing monsters over genuine cases***).
So the real questions in these circumstances is not "why did the minister approve Sroubek" but how can Peter Thiel get the red carpet treatment but Karel Sroubek cannot?
Or was he in the process of getting such treatment before the media turned it into a cheap morality play?
I'm not arguing for Sroubek to stay, I'm in the kick him out camp but I am also for stripping Mr Theil of his citizenship and that of anyone else who lies about their history and background (like National MP and Chinese Spy Jin Yang) because whats the bigger threat to the integrity of Aotearoa's immigration system and its democracy: a Czech drug smuggler or a Billionaire with a political view that lies somewhere to the right of Ann Rand and an intelligence agent of a foreign power with dictatorial political system and notorious human rights record as a sitting MP?
Hmmmmmm. Gee, I wonder what the answer could be?
But I have blogged about issues with Immigration in NZ before (here, here and here) and as easy it is to cry for the head of the current minister the reality is that we (or more correctly successive left and right governments) have decided that cheap labor is the key when we have an economic system which wants to keep wages low no matter the cost and that the only way to offset Kiwis heading across the Tasman, for better wages and living standards, is to over-inflate and over hype our international education system and ignore scams like getting married (and residency) for money on a large scale.
Yet the likely outcome is Sroubek will go while Theil and Yang get to stay because apparently Kiwis can only get outraged about immigration issues when its drugs and not abuses by the wealthy, obvious cases of espionage, migrant exploitation or marriage-for-residency scams which makes this less a genuine issue and more the most recent round of "wont someone think of the children!".
So lets not turn the issue into another round of political point scoring or as an obvious distraction from a genuine high crime, like National selling slots in their party to the highest foreign bidder, but instead say "yes" to kicking Sroubek out but lets also get rid of that billionaire guy who got citizenship only because he's filthy rich and that lying intelligence operative for a hostile power who is also, mysteriously, still roaming the halls of parliment.
And for those who think this is just some rant against foreigners let me add in that I am all for citizenship to those who genuinely want to be here or have no other place to go (like most refugees), who come to NZ because its a better place than where they come from or because they have a brighter future here than back in their homeland (read your average economic migrant).
NZ is built on the successive waves of immigration that have come to our shores but the current one has become less about genuine immigrants adding to the New Zealand experience and more about selling citizenship which opens us up to looking less like a functioning democracy and open society and more like a sleazy tax haven or banana republic.
I could go on here and write about how most immigration advisers (espically the prominent ones) are more part of the problem than a solution or how INZ has stripped staff and resource from its compliance arm to to such an extent that only the most brazen crimes get investigated even while staff and managers know exactly how bad things are, but those are posts for another day.
Suffice to say that Labour did not do itself any favors when Jacinda told people to "read between the lines" but the narrative in much of the media that Iain Lees-Galloway should be shaved and sterilized lest he escape, mate with Clare Curran and thus further dilute Labours political gene-pool with drooling mongoloids is overblown media focus at best (and as someone who like hyperbolic statements I know what that looks like) and desperate false flagging by National at worst because one crappy decision by the Minister of Immigration is just the tip (and not the summit) of the mess that immigration in this country has become.
If Sroubek goes so should Thiel, Yang and all those other "economic citizens" who will have the dollars to buy a seat in Parliament because its just not right.
*-Because, if my memory serves me correctly, the ministers private secretary can decide or advise on immigration appeals to the minister as much or the minister.
**-Immigration's document collecting functions are outsourced and many decisions are made in offshore branches by locally engaged employees working to fill what is effectively a quota
***-Id love to say more but all IOs agree not to disclose what they know when they leave INZ so thats as much as I can say without getting my "hands smacked".