An immigrant who owns a restaurant in Auckland and knows both Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern has a public message for them via The Spinoff: Andrew Little is a regular at my restaurant. Here’s what I’d like to say to him about immigration
Israeli-born Yael Shochat is the owner of much-loved Fort St institution Ima Cuisine. She writes about the essential role immigration plays in her restaurant – and why the Labour leader’s vow to slash immigrant numbers by ‘tens of thousands’ has her deeply worried.
To Mr Andrew Little, and to dear Jacinda, whom I consider a friend: you’ve been to my restaurant, Ima Cuisine, many times. You’ve shared my company and enjoyed my most beloved dishes – immigrant food from all over the Jewish diaspora, and Palestinian food, the indigenous cuisine of my country. What are we going to say to each other next time you come in? Are you going to give “compliments to the chefs”, half of whom are not welcome here under your immigration policy? Am I welcome here? I certainly don’t feel welcome now that you’ve promised to cut “tens of thousands” of immigrants.
Your immigration policy (and the policy of the Greens and the National party) is based on racist tropes and stereotypes. Anti immigration sentiment is built on myths that don’t add up. We migrants are “lazy”, sucking up resources and putting a strain on the welfare system, and at the same time we work too hard – we are “stealing” jobs from “ordinary New Zealanders”.
This is false. Immigrants are largely young (considering we have an aging population this can’t be a bad thing), fit, and keen to work to better their lives. They are good people, they are healthy and they are paying tax. They are not a drain on society, they are holding it up! The jobs they are “stealing” are usually the ones Kiwis don’t want – low-paying and physically demanding. This unfortunately makes migrants more easily exploited by employers; that was certainly the case for some of my staff before they came to me.
She explains what she thinks Little’s suggested slashing of immigration will do.
Right now I, my friends and peers in the restaurant industry are all crying out for kitchen and wait staff. Stopping immigration – while refusing to actually address the underlying causes of problems in the job and housing market – will mean I won’t be able to hire anyone. I won’t be able to cook for you anymore. Many other industries will also suffer.
Stopping immigration won’t solve our problems but it will create more. Stopping immigration will divide our country and make it less safe.
Policies such as yours are dog whistles, mostly inaudible messages of demonisation and othering used for political gain.
If today it is the case that even the left can be covertly racist, we are emboldening more overtly racist individuals, leaving them more space to spread their hatred and their violence.
I understand that you are desperate for more votes this election, and sure, blaming immigrants for the ills of society is an easy way of getting them. So shift the blame on us as many have done before you. I just hope you’re ready to face the consequences.
I hope Team Little-Ardern do what they can to avoid the consequences by rethinking their stance on immigration and coming out with some actual policy that doesn’t harm those who have already come here and added value to New Zealand.
And more than Little and Ardern – immigration without discrimination and ostracisation is necessary for New Zealand to thrive as a compassionate and thriving multi-cultural country.