Immigration Policy should be sound and just

Editorial One

Issue 383 December 15, 2017

Alastair McClymont, who wrote our frontpage story in this issue dispels the myth that the Labour Party is against immigration and that it erect barricades to stop international students and migrant workers from seeking to become permanent residents and eventually citizens.

Mr McClymont is an experienced immigration lawyer, who for the most part does pro bono work (there are others who make money for his firm) for hapless victims of the unscrupulous employers (a majority of whom are allegedly of Indian origin) and what he describes ‘heartless bureaucrats.’

Streamline, not curtail

His point is simple: Labour wants to streamline immigration, not curtail it – hardly a contestable point. A hundred workers exploited and left to subsist in an otherwise rich country is inexcusable transgression indeed.

We hope that the Labour government will have in place a sound and just immigration regime that behoves the character and culture of New Zealand as a compassionate Nation with progressive policies.

Defending Immigration

Looking around the developed world, most governments are in favour of immigration, despite equally vociferous defenders, who often fight on nativist turf, citing data to respond to claims about migrants’ damaging effects on wages or public services. Those data are indeed on migrants’ side.

Though some research suggests that native workers with skill levels similar to those of arriving migrants take a hit to their wages because of increased migration, most analyses find that they are not harmed, and that many eventually earn more as competition nudges them to specialise in more demanding occupations.

Self-interest Strategy

Appeal to self-interest is a more effective strategy. In countries with acute demographic challenges, migration is a solution to the challenges posed by ageing: immigrants’ tax payments help fund native pensions; they can help ease a shortage of care workers. In New Zealand for instance, people worry that foreigners compete with New Zealanders for the care of the Public Health Service, but pay less attention to the migrants helping to staff the system.

New Zealanders enjoy other benefits, too. As migrants prosper and have children, they become better able to contribute to Science, the Arts and entrepreneurial activity.

This is the Steve Jobs case for immigration: the child of a Muslim man from Syria might create a world-changing company in his new home.

As the Economist would say, Europeans are not more deserving of high incomes than Chinese or Indians. And the discomfort some feel at the strange dress or speech of a passerby does not remotely justify trillions in economic losses foisted on the world’s poorest people.

No one should be timid about saying so, loud and clear.

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