Electorate MP helps Sri Lankan family get residency

Electorate MPs do a lot of work with and for constituents that usually goes unreported and largely unnoticed, but here is a story of a success by rookie Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker (he took over the seat long held by Bill English and short held by Todd Barclay).

This also shows how MPs from different parties work together – in this case Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi.

Stuff: Sri Lankan family get residency after eight-year battle

A year after they pleaded to avoid deportation to Sri Lanka, a Queenstown family have been granted residency and are giving back to the community that supported them.

“I am so happy,” an emotional Dinesha Wijerathne said, while working in her new chef job at the community project Let’s Eat.

Husband Sam Wijerathne, a taxi driver, said they had struggled for eight years to reach a point of certainty for the family.

As they went through the residency application process, Dinesha Wijerathne, the primary visa holder, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and was unable to work.

Their working visa applications were declined and the future looked grim.

Local MP Hamish Walker stepped in too.

He assisted them to appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, buying time for the family, before requesting the Immigration Minister to intervene.

Walker, a first term National Party MP, lobbied Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi.

“Really I must thank him for allowing thIs family to stay in New Zealand,” Walker said.

Good work by Walker, and a good response from Faafoi.

 

National’s Woodhouse wants to ban Chelsea Manning from visiting NZ

National MP and former Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse is calling for a ban on US whistle blower Chelsea Manning from visiting New Zealand.

Stuff:  National wants Chelsea Manning barred from New Zealand

National is calling on the Government to bar ex-US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning from visiting the country next month.

Former Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the “convicted felon” should not be allowed to earn money talking about her crimes, and it would “not enhance” New Zealand’s relationship with the US.

Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified American diplomatic and military documents, has two speaking events scheduled in early September.

Her conviction for espionage and computer fraud means she is likely to require a “special direction” from the Government to allow her into the country.

Woodhouse said if an application from Manning had landed on his desk while he was Immigration Minister, he would have denied it, and called on the Government to do the same.

“She is wanting to be hailed as a hero for stealing military secrets and state secrets. She was convicted of very serious crimes.

“I’m a firm believer in free speech. But I don’t believe there is a basis to say that her crimes are victimless. We will never know because of the nature of her offending – whether there are people that were put in harm’s way,” Woodhouse said.

I’m very surprised that Woodhouse and national have chosen this as something to bark at.

I have no idea what a normal Immigration position would be on someone like Manning, but on a free speech basis this stance almost makes me speechless.

Sri Lankan visa scam revealed

Something to add to the immigration debate.

RNZ: Sri Lankan visa scam revealed, but no review of past applications

Immigration officials are investigating a major scam involving student visa applications from Sri Lanka.

The New Zealand immigration office in Mumbai that handles Sri Lankan applications received a tip off at the start of the year.

Inquiries led officials to conclude a Sri Lankan based company was fraudulently creating documentation to help students meet the criteria of having money in the bank.

Official briefings to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway show investigations are under way into the potential involvement of education agents in Sri Lanka, the finance company, whose name is redacted in the papers, and students as a result of these revelations.

There were 88 pending applications when the fraud was discovered and after further checks were done 83 were declined. The tip-off was in January.

The National Party wants to know why hundreds of past visas that have been granted to Sri Lankan students won’t be reviewed.

Former Immigration Minister and National Party spokesperson Michael Woodhouse asked Mr Lees-Galloway whether he would look at past years to make sure the visas approved were legitimate.

Mr Lees-Galloway said that after scrutinising, then rejecting, most of the 88 applications the focus would now be on any future signs of fraud.

“To identify applications with similar characteristics already decided by INZ [Immigration New Zealand] would require substantial collation which I do not believe is in the public interest.”

According to Mr Woodhouse up to half of Sri Lankan applicants could have used the company “fraudulently”, and said that should be enough for officials to find how widespread any fraud was.

More on US immigrant detentions

The furore over immigrant detentions in the US continues, but it isn’t just over the caging of kids. Protests continue, Time magazine has been slammed for a cover image depicting a small child versus Donald Trump, and claims and counter claims of what was already being done and what has changed under Trump are all over the place.

CNN: Time cover backlash: Magazine stands by illustration of crying girl next to Trump

The cover features an image of a crying toddler taken by Getty photographer John Moore superimposed next to President Trump, who is towering over the child. The text next to the illustration reads, “Welcome to America.”

But as details about the little girl emerged this week, critics claim the cover is misleading because she is not one of the thousands of children who have been separated from their parents at the border.

I’m not sure why a magazine cover image is such an issue but that’s what it has become.

Soon reports began to emerge, citing the girl’s father, who is still in Honduras, and Customs and Border Protection, who said she was not separated from her mother.

“The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason: Under the policy enforced by the administration, prior to its reversal this week, those who crossed the border illegally were criminally prosecuted, which in turn resulted in the separation of children and parents. Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment,” Time’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said in a statement to CNN .

Moore, the photographer, told CNN he never claimed that the little girl was taken away from her mother. His original caption said that they were “detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation.”

Despite those details, critics said use of the photo plays into the “fake news” hysteria promoted by the President and his supporters, who claim the media is purposely misleading the public in an effort to hurt the administration.

“It appears that the iconic image of the separations policy didn’t involve a separation—all too typical of how a hysterical, advocacy-driven media covers immigration,” Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative magazine National Review, wrote on Twitter.

OI don’t think this is a completely factual photo either:

Image result for national review cover

I guess trump could be both good and bad in different ways.

An unusual report from Fox: Woman detained for 2 weeks after accidentally jogging into US

A French citizen visiting Canada said she was detained for two weeks after she accidentally jogged across the U.S.-Canada border in May.

Cedella Roman, 19, said she did not realize she crossed the border during her jog along a beach in White Rock, British Columbia on May 21. The young woman said she stopped during her jog to take a picture of the beach before deciding to turn around to run back when she was apprehended by two U.S. Border Patrol officers who told her she illegally crossed the border into Blaine, Washington.

And the separation of children from parents continues to get coverage.

What remains is major problems over illegal immigration into the US, especially via Mexico, and confusion and debate over how this should be dealt with humanely.

Trump defiance on immigration switches to backdown on splitting families

Donald Trump has reacted to the furore over splitting immigrant families and ‘caging’ children – he is still blaming the Democrats, but at the same time saying he will take immediate action to stop illegal immigrant families from being split up.

Fox News: Trump plans executive action to prevent family separations at border

President Trump is planning to sign an executive order to allow children to stay with parents caught crossing the border illegally — a step that could avoid the family separations that have triggered a national outcry and political crisis for Republicans.

He also said he’s canceling the upcoming congressional picnic, adding: “It didn’t feel exactly right to me.”

Reuters: Trump to order end of immediate immigrant family separations at U.S. border

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would sign an executive order on immigration on Wednesday to end the immediate separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has sparked outrage in the United States and abroad.

An administration official said Trump would sign an order that would require immigrant families to be detained together if they are caught crossing the border illegally.

Trump previously had insisted his hands were tied on the separation policy.

And he blamed the Democrats despite there being Republican majorities in the Senate and in Congress.

The order also would move parents with children to the front of the line for immigration proceedings but would not end a “zero tolerance” policy that urges criminal prosecution of immigrants crossing the border illegally, the official said.

“I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat pre-emptive but ultimately will be matched by legislation I’m sure,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“We want security for our country,” Trump said. “We will have that as the same time we have compassion … I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that.”

He has suddenly found some compassion? That’s not how he looked yesterday.

The House of Representatives planned to vote on Thursday on two bills designed to halt the practice of separating families and to address other immigration issues.

But Republicans said they were uncertain if either measure would have enough support to be approved. Trump told House Republicans on Tuesday night he would support either of the immigration bills under consideration but did not give a preference.

If the Republicans don’t have enough support that must be because some republicans don’t support the bills.

This is a remarkable change from yesterday when he was blaming the Democrats for blocking law changes to stop the family splitting.

I don’t know why a law change is required to stop splitting families when the practice started under current law – I presume the current law doesn’t compel border officials to imprison parents and cage kids, because that hasn’t always happened like what has been revealed this week.

See also Trump’s catch-and-detain policy snares many who have long called U.S. home

Here is a marker of current approval ratings for Trump. He has recently had a bit of improvement in approval ratings, but looks likely to take a hit after the furore over border control and especially separation parents from children and caging of children bites.

If there is any backlash, Trump has defied polls predictions many times over.

FiveThirtyEight Truimp Approval:

Current RCP Trump Approval average:

In that the Economist/YouGov Poll has trump at 44% approval, 50% disapproval. Details:

Economist/YouGov – Trump Approval on immigration

Nation – immigration and banking

On Newshub Nation this morning:

Immigration – Lisa Owen asks Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway about Labour’s plan to reduce immigration by 20-30,000 and what the effect will be on our economy.

Banking – Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr talks about lifting the lid on New Zealand banking practices and which areas concern him most.

Q&A – workplace relations and employment law

Iain Lees-Galloway looks one of the Labour MPs who has managed the transition from Opposition to ministerial responsibilities in government very well. He is interviewed on Q&A this morning.

Lees-Galloway is ranked 13th in Cabinet.

A recent media release:

The Government’s draft strategy for improving the health and safety of New Zealand workers over the next 10 years has been released, with submissions now being called for, says Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway.

His responsibilities:

  • Workplace Relations and Safety
  • ACC
  • Immigration
  • Deputy Leader of the House

He has managed to keep a low profile on Immigration given Labour’s promises to significantly reduce immigration, but net migration numbers have barely moved. There is no indication this will be covered in the interview. However there’s a close relationship between employment and immigration, and there have been a number of recent reports of labour shortages in various parts of the country.

Unions currently represent about 17% of the workforce. The Government has no intention of making joining a union compulsory – Lees-Galloway says that the need for freedom of association is a key reason for this.

It’s a good interview, Lees-Galloway sounds like he knows his stuff, tries to explain rather than avoid answering, and comes across well.

He is asked about immigration numbers, and he diverts here to say he isn’t focussed on numbers but in making sure they get labour into ‘the right places’.

Pushed on getting immigration numbers down he waffles around it and eventually falls back on “getting immigration better”.

Welfare overhaul announcement ‘imminent’

Jacinda Ardern has said that an announcement on aims to overhaul welfare delivery is ‘imminent’, but it will rely on yet another working group so any decisions are likely to be quite a way down the track.

Some (Greens especially) have proposed a much more generous ‘no questions asked’ welfare payment system.

The Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement stated:

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

That is toned down from what Metiria Turei promoted before crashing during last year’s election campaign, in a policy labelled ‘Mending the Safety Net’:

We will:

  • Increase all core benefits by 20 percent
  • Increase the amount people can earn before their benefit is cut
  • Increase the value of Working For Families for all families
  • Create a Working For Families Children’s Credit of $72 a week
  • Remove financial penalties and excessive sanctions for people receiving benefits
  • Reduce the bottom tax rate from 10.5 percent to 9 percent on income under $14,000
  • Introduce a new top tax rate of 40 percent on income over $150,000 per year.
  • Raise the minimum wage to $17.75 in the first year and keep raising it until it’s 66 percent of the average wage.

Our welfare system should provide effective support for people who need it, while they need it. The social safety net should stop families from falling into poverty and guarantee a basic, liveable income. That’s what it means to live in a decent, compassionate society.

Punishing people through benefit sanctions, cuts, and investigations has not worked. Rather than giving people ‘incentives’, it traps them in a cycle of poverty and puts children’s wellbeing at risk. Children suffer when the welfare system punishes their parents, and in the long term, so does society. It is never ok for the government to use poverty or the threat of poverty as a weapon.

The Green Party’s plan will ensure the people on the highest incomes pay their fair share and those that need help are treated with respect and dignity.

That last paragraph looks like code for a major redistribution – one could wonder if it aims at ‘fair share’ being equal share, no matter what work one does or doesn’t do.

Stuff: Welfare overhaul working group details leak out online

Details of the “imminent” Government overhaul of the welfare system have emerged in online job listings.

The job listings show the Government is setting up a welfare overhaul “expert advisory group” supported by a secretariat of officials from different departments.

The listings for a project manager and strategic communications advisor were posted in March of this year on the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) website.

In the job description MSD write “the Government has committed, through the Labour/Greens Confidence and Supply Agreement, to overhaul the Welfare System. This work will be led by an independent group of Experts, supported by a Secretariat of officials from MSD, the Treasury and Inland Revenue.”

The listings have emerged as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said an announcement on the welfare overhaul is “imminent”.

Ardern has made clear that some sanctions would remain after the overhaul.

She said a culture change was needed at Work and Income, but acknowledged that “by and large” case managers did a good job.

“Culture change is difficult. We are coming in after nine years of there being an expectation that there be a singular focus on reducing benefit numbers and of course we want people in work, we want people who are seeking work to be able to find work, but I think it has tipped over into a space where it actually denying people who need help the help they need,” Ardern said.

This reform could be a real test of Labour versus Green aims.

Greens want a radical change to generous state assistance as a right and a choice. This may meet some resistance from people who pay tax, but is likely to be supported by those who can’t work, and also by those who don’t want to work.

If I was offered the option of a comfortable income from the Government I would be very tempted to retire early.

We already have sustained high immigration because we don’t have enough New Zealand workers for a number of industries. If we have more of a choice to not work would higher immigration to compensate be acceptable?

Welfare reform is a big and contentious issue.

There is no doubt that the current system has serious flaws and is punitive, but it will be difficult – and potentially very expensive – to make major changes.

For the Greens to get what they want it will involve much more than welfare reform – their wish list would require…

  • welfare reform
  • tax and revenue reform
  • employment reform
  • serious reconsideration of immigration

…and probably more

If it ended up how some indicate they want it too it would involve a radical shift towards virtual socialism.

Pope on World Day of Migrants and Refugees

The Pope has spoken about immigration in a special mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Reuters:  Fear and doubt should not determine response to immigrants, Pope says

Mutual fears between immigrants and their new communities are understandable, but must not prevent new arrivals from being welcomed and integrated, Pope Francis said on Sunday in a special Mass to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

“Local communities are sometimes afraid that the newly arrived will disturb the established order, will ”steal“ something they have long laboured to build up,” he said, while “the newly arrived … are afraid of confrontation, judgement, discrimination, failure.”

“Having doubts and fears is not a sin. The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection.”

…he said newcomers must “know and respect the laws, the culture and the traditions of the countries that take them in”.

Migration and immigration have been an essential part of human history. As the most isolated country in the world New Zealand has been totally reliant on immigration.

Some care has to be taken over the numbers and types of immigrants allowed to move here, but our isolation makes this relatively easy to control.

Hostility and rejection are impediments to a healthy society.

Communities, meanwhile, have “to open themselves without prejudices to (newcomers’) rich diversity, to understand the hopes and potential of the newly arrived as well as their fears and vulnerabilities”.

Communities here are generally open and welcoming to newcomers here, with only isolated attacks and a bit of moaning on the sidelines.

Changing faces and population growth

I think that Duncan Garner has had a go at this before, but here he goes again: Dear NZ, how do we want to look in 20 years?

 I went to Kmart on Wednesday to buy some new underpants and socks.

Now, normally this outing to the mall wouldn’t be a big deal but this one fast became a nightmarish glimpse into our future if we stuff it up.

As I started walking towards the self-pay counter I saw a massive human snake crawling its way around the self-service island near the middle of the store. And it snaked and snaked and snaked. The snake was massive.

I wondered what the attraction was? It wasn’t immediately obvious. Then it was. The self-service counter couldn’t cope.

It couldn’t cope with the pressures of the people. The dozens of stressed faces making up the human snake were frustrated too.

I looked around, it could have been anywhere in South East Asia.

I wasn’t shocked – we have reported this for three years – we have targeted immigrants, opened the gates and let in record numbers. This year’s net gain of migrants was 72,000.

Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the crossroads, otherwise known as Kmart’s self-service counter. Every four minutes and 51 seconds New Zealand’s population grows by another person. We are growing faster now than compared to any other time in our history. And faster than most countries in the world.

New Zealand’s population grew by 100,400 to the June 2017 year.

This is not an opinion column designed to be deliberately inflammatory on race grounds, flimsy grounds or any other grounds.

But do we have any idea what we’re doing here? No.

Predictions show we will have 6.3 million people by 2038. There’ll be more Asians than Maori. Is anyone leading this debate on how big we should be? No.

Does it matter? You bet it does.

Garner raises two main issues here.

Many will probably focus on “Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the crossroads…”

It makes a big difference where this particular K-Mart was. I went to The Warehouse and New World last night. Both were a completely different picture. Both were remarkably uncrowded – I went straight up to a counter and got served at both. And it was a typically Dunedin mix of faces, nothing like Garner’s K-Mart description.

I think the more important issue is population growth. How big should the new Zealand population be allowed to grow?

Over the last few years population growth has been running at about 70,000 per annum. That doesn’t sound much, but if that was sustained over fifteen years it would be over a million more residents.

Population growth isn’t even over the country. Auckland is obviously facing the biggest growth problems. I happily choose not to go to Auckland if I can help it, the traffic is often diabolical, and when I have gone to Auckland in the past for non-work reasons I usually choose to get out to less populated places.

I actually work a lot in Auckland (as well as in Australia, South Africa, the UK and the US) but fortunately, with today’s technology, most of that work is done from an office in Dunedin. World wide networks now operate far faster than inter-office networks of a couple of decades ago.

Twenty years ago, even fifteen years ago, if I wanted data from a client I would tell them how to zip it onto a diskette – or often many diskettes – and put it in the post.  Now I connect directly and work or copy data.

So in some ways population concentrations are not needed. Working from a distance has never been easier in some lines of work.

But there has been a tendency in the last few centuries, and especially over the last half century, for people to flock to and inflate the populations of major cities, turning them into mega cities, while provincial cities like Dunedin chug away slowly.

Perhaps Garner and others in media could work remotely. But they choose to join the overcrowding in Auckland. That is their choice, so I am not entirely sympathetic to their complaints about population.

But back to immigration and overall population growth.

People are lining up to come here because we are the last paradise on Earth.

Our small population is our winning card. Let’s not lose that.

Everything we do we must ask ourselves this question: Will this make our country better for those living in it now?

If the answer is no then we must pause, stop and think again. Your great-grandchildren will be so grateful. And it’s our legacy.

But there’s little sign that the new Government is pausing, stopping and thinking again. There were varying signals about immigration in the election campaign, but there has been little sign of major change or rethink.

On the beehive website this is the only Press release from the Immigration portfolio:

Building occupations added to skill shortage list

It will be easier for the building industry to find the workers it needs to help address New Zealand’s housing shortfall, with seven building-related occupations being added to the Immediate Skill Shortage List (ISSL), Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced today.

“Employing skilled migrants will meet the immediate demand for people with the skills required to rapidly increase the number of houses in New Zealand.”

The focus is on bringing in more builders to build more houses to cater for the growing population.

When Garner wants to buy more undies and socks in the future he will probably find little has changed.