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Shifting Policies Chaos for Potential Immigrants

Shifting Policies Mean Chaos for Potential Immigrants

By Jim Peron

Once again New Zealand¹s immigration policy has taken a dramatic shift. Once thing is certain about this government¹s immigration policy and that is that nothing is certain.

Just a few months ago Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel announced new measures to ³solve² problems regarding immigration. Now she¹s done it again. But each time the rules changed it disrupted the lives of potential immigrants who had already filed their applications.

Thousands, who filed under one set of regulations, suddenly find that they are being judged under a different set. And the rather hefty fees they pay upon application are not refundable. Under one set of regulations a potential immigrant might have a decent chance of being accepted. Under the new rules he might not. Had these rules been in effect at the time of filing he probably wouldn¹t have wasted his money. The government concedes that under the new regulations about half the applicants who have already filed will be rejected.

If you were buying a home and put down a deposit and agreed upon terms you wouldn¹t like it if the seller suddenly changed the terms, said you no longer qualified for the deal, and then kept the deposit. Basic rules of fairness should at least require that all applications filed and paid for under a specific set of regulations be judged by those regulations and not under whatever ³flavour of the week² regulations that are sprung unannounced.

Changing the rules midstream is grossly unjust to those who filed, in good faith, under rules that the Minister had set only a few months ago.

The new regulations also punish immigrants who wish to move to Auckland. Dalziel not only wants to micromanage who comes to New Zealand but in what regions they are employed. She¹s ignoring basic economics but exhibiting Labour¹s ideological bias in favour of bureaucrats managing every minute aspect of individual existence.

To make it worse she issues statements pretending that she is doing this for the good of the immigrants themselves. It¹s highly unlikely that many of the immigrants, who have just had their future plans turned upside down by Dalziel¹s unpredictable, unstable policies, will actually agree with her.

The Minister laments that highly qualified professionals are driving taxis in Auckland. To prevent these people from suffering this fate she¹ll keep them out of New Zealand altogether or mandate that they seek employment only outside Auckland.

Professional immigrants do sometimes drive taxis though I doubt the Minister knows if it¹s more than a handful. But, how many of them are doing so temporarily until they find a job in the field where they are qualified? I know of one recent immigrant who took temporary jobs during the three months it took to find a good job in his chosen vocation. That an immigrant is driving a taxi now doesn¹t mean he¹ll be driving one next year. This is a fact that seemed to escape the Minister¹s attention.

Secondly, how many professionals are taking these jobs because other government policies require them to jump through other hoops before they are allowed to work in their field? A professional may arrive, be accepted for residency, but be prevented from working in his field until he satisfies the authorities that he¹s qualified for his profession. While trying to satisfy government regulations he may have no other option but to drive a taxi.

The Minister claims she doesn¹t want immigrants to come to New Zealand and fail. But preventing them from moving to Auckland may do just that. Immigrants in most countries often are friends or relatives of others who have immigrated already. Friends and family members here provide important support structures for the new immigrants. But if the new immigrant is forbidden from living in Auckland, near this support network, chances of failure increases. Labour often forgets that in cultures not corrupted by welfare families often provide for any ³welfare² needs. Dalziel¹s new policy strips new immigrants of the benefits of living near previous immigrants.

In California it turns out that four fifths of all doughnut shops are owned by Cambodian immigrants or their children. The reason is simple. Immigrants provide a social safety net for each other. Once the initial immigrant opened his first doughnut shop other family members or friends immigrated and did the same. Forbidding the later waves of immigrants from moving to major cities would not have increased their chances of success. Instead it separates them from the private social net that was created by previous immigrants. This increases the risk of failing.

Surely the immigrants are more concerned about their success than is the Minister. As the ones who are taking the risks they should be ones who decide where they will take the risk as well. If the Minister is wrong on this one, and I think she is, she won¹t suffer much but thousands of immigrants will. It¹s easy to be blasé when you¹re planning the lives of other people at no risk to yourself.

Predictable public policies are required for individuals to make rational decisions. But the Minister responds to whatever ³crisis² the media finds fashionable at any one time and adjusts policies accordingly. When the media was filled with reports about the English speaking ability of immigrants she suddenly imposed new rules so strict they would disqualify many Kiwis as potential immigrants to their own country. Recently the media found the concentration of immigrants in Auckland a fashionable story and the Minister has adjusted policies accordingly. Instead of leading on the issues the Minister is blatantly following the lead of media reports.

I doubt whether following the lead of the media is the best way to set policy. In fact I¹m sure it¹s about the worst way possible. One thing is clear, as long as the Minister is attempting to placate press reports there never will be a uniform, predictable policy that is fair to potential immigrants.

- Jim Peron is the executive director of the Institute for Liberal Values and a recent immigrant himself.

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