Open the Gates


Treat All Immigrants Equally

...most of the illegal immigrants from Guatemala and other Central American countries are not law-breakers by nature;
they're people who are seeking a better life.
It's hard to leave your family and your home, to take the risks inherent in coming to a strange land without the approval of the law.
People do it because they want a better opportunity for themselves and their families.
I think there are two things that should be noted as we do try to enforce our immigration laws.
The first is that we have to be sensitive and act with justice and understand the impact of recent events.
The second is that the present American law is completely unfair in that it treats people from different countries differently - a vestige of our Cold War mentality.
I can do two things about that.  The first is to try to change the law: we will aggressively work to try to change the law to get parity, equal treatment
for all people from Central America without regard to the political past, and whether the difficulties of the past were seen as coming from the right or the left.
I think that's irrelevant - we should treat all countries the same.
The second is to use, to the maximum extent possible, whatever flexibility I have under present law to achieve the same goal.  And I will do that.

- President Bill Clinton
Transcript: 10 March 99 National Palace of Culture Guatemala City roundtable discussion

All the people like us are We, and everyone else is They.

- Rudyard Kipling

by Dan C Pak

Some of the 11 September terrorists were reported to have entered the country as students.  Some attended school for a short while and dropped out, and the others did not even bother to attend school at all.  They simply disappeared, thus becoming illegal immigrants.

I don't know any immigrants hiding from the law.  But if I did, I wouldn't waste even a moment before reporting them to authorities.  It's unfair to the legal immigrants who waited many years and then went through seemingly endless red tape before being admitted into this country.  Am I small-minded, vile and cantankerous in lashing out at illegal immigrants?  I am willing to bear the label if I must.  But consider this: My waiting period for immigration to the United States stretched out to no less than a decade and a half.  It took 15 arduous and tantalising years.  Now you know where I am coming from.

At long last, when I set my feet on the soil of the United States, I was flabbergasted to find crowds of immigrants everywhere.  How did they all get here?  To my dismay, I discovered that there were other ways - easier ways - to come and settle down.  Amnesty programs, extended to illegal immigrants every so often, are an example of American generosity for the world to see.  It's a noble undertaking for helping those unfortunate souls struggling to establish themselves in a strange land under difficult conditions.  Any fair-minded individual should have nothing but praise for it.

But there is a problem - not with the program itself, but with those who abuse it.  Crafty manipulators are taking advantage of the "kinder and gentler" American spirit.  These individuals are like moles, holed up in various parts of the country, waiting for the next announcement of amnesty.  Many people in foreign lands hear about the big break for their relatives and friends already in the United States and are ready to surface from hiding when granted amnesty.  It is a signal to them for action: "If my friends did it and made it, why not me?"  You know the rest of the story.

Stemming the tide of illegal immigrants is a monumental task for immigration officials.  Undoubtedly, there are mitigating circumstances calling for special consideration, such as helping family members reunite.  The problem comes, however, after legal residency is granted.  It's disturbing when the immigrants display a total lack of interest in the affairs of this country after gaining legal status.  Their physical presence is merely a matter of enjoying advantages over compatriots in their native country.

It is difficult to detect even an iota of commitment to the adopted country.  The pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States is, at best, a hollow repetition read to them by an administrator.  At worst, some of them cannot say it in English.  Did they understand the meaning of it?  It's doubtful.

I once discussed these matters with someone and explained how unfair it is for legal immigrants.  He warned me not to dwell on the subject.  "Forget it!  Otherwise, you might get a stomach ulcer or even worse," he said.  He was right.  I have a doctor's appointment next week.

Dan C Pak, a native of Korea, is a retired businessman living in Bremen

Source: 13 December 2001 from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mr Pak wants himself to be treated equally rather than all immigrants.  Surely he can understand that not all immigrants have led equal lives.  Tolerance is a virtue.

New Life as a Second-Class Citizen

One Man's Poll

by Simon Collins

It was the year 2000.  The number of ethnic Asians in New Zealand had just exceeded the number of Pacific Islanders.

At James Cook High School in Manurewa, a group of Indian students asked the school for financial support to take part in that year's Auckland Secondary Schools Maori and Pacific Islands Cultural Festival, which had become the world's biggest Polynesian event.  "The Maori cultural groups were funded," said one of those Indian students, Vikash Naidu.  "We asked the school to support us.  It didn't."

Last month - two years later - that decision still burned in Naidu's memory when he was interviewed near the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), where he is studying business and computing.  He is not alone.  Many of the 78 Asians, Africans and Pacific Islanders among the 600 New Zealanders interviewed for this series feel they are still not being treated on a par with other Kiwis.  Most of them are glad to be here.  Much higher proportions of Asians and Africans (76%) and Pacific Islanders (56%) rated the state of the country as "good" or better than did Europeans (49%) or Maori (33%).  That was not just because of our relatively unspoilt environment and our democratic freedoms, although these remain our most powerful beacons to people fleeing Fiji, China and other overcrowded autocracies.  A surprising number of immigrants also rated New Zealanders as more welcoming and less racist than people in other places they have lived in, such as Australia and even Canada.

But there are serious tensions, especially in Auckland, which is home to 2/3 of the country's immigrants.  In this respect two quite different countries emerge from this survey: Auckland and the rest.

The Maori and Pacific Islands Festival is a microcosm of the conflicting pressures as the new Asian migrants look for a place in a predominantly European society still struggling to come to terms with its growing Polynesian element.  The teacher in charge of the Indian cultural group at James Cook High School, Rosalind Daniel, said at least 30 Indian groups from various schools took part in this year's festival at the Manukau Sports Bowl in March.  James Cook paid its students' fees, but the Indian performers were consigned to the Niuean/Cook Islands stage on the Thursday, the day before the main event.  "We are not given our own stage, so while it's still under construction getting ready for the festival on Friday, we are allowed to use it - while the carpenters and all the other people are still tinkering with it," she said.  "To be honest with you, we are not integrated into the festival.  We have to push ourselves to get any registration or any time to perform."

Daniel, who came to New Zealand from India 25 years ago, said the Asian groups met two weeks ago and discussed the possibility of a separate Asian cultural festival.  But it would be a divisive plan and they don't want to do it.  "I can understand that the name is the Polynesian Festival," she said.  "So maybe we should have a multicultural festival rather than just a Polynesian Festival, because Asian students are coming into this country and we are not recognising their presence at all.  I wish they would recognise that we are part of New Zealand too."

Highly qualified adult immigrants find the same kind of resistance among Kiwi employers.

bulletA Singaporean who travelled the world 9 times as international marketing manager in his home country could not find anyone interested in his contacts and skills here and has ended up buying a Lotto outlet in a suburban mall.  "I have a doctor friend, a cancer specialist who graduated from a British university.  He is not recognised as a doctor here," he said.  "The country is short of cancer specialists.  Immigrants go and apply for a job.  Sometimes employers look at the names and they don't even get a reply.  Or they say, 'Do you have Kiwi experience?"'
bulletA 45-year-old Iraqi engineer with years of experience overseas said he had gone back to university to do a local master's degree after trying for three years to get a job.
bulletGeorgia Molia, a Solomon Islands hairdresser who came here via Australia two years ago, said Australia made sure its immigrants found jobs.  "Last night, I saw a doctor - an immigrant - working in a supermarket.  Why don't you make use of people like that?" she asked.
bulletElizabeth Tuanai, 31, a senior secretary in Samoa, has been unable to get a job since she arrived in Auckland six months ago.  Her friend Anita Auai, 32, a clerical worker at the Starship hospital for 10 years, has been looking for a new job for a year.  "I think there is discrimination by employers.  They discriminate by what race you are."

Another Pacific Islander who is studying at the Auckland College of Education feels it is also harder for immigrants to get public funding for projects.  "If an association of Pakeha apply for money, they get it," she said.  "If an association of Pacific Islanders apply for it, they don't.  I am so angry with the way the Government treats us."

Many migrants resent - in terms which most Pakeha would shrink from expressing - the scholarships, preferential entry quotas and Treaty of Waitangi settlements which they see Maori people getting.  "The Maoris don't work," said 20-year-old communications student Cici Zhang, a recent arrival from China.  They don't have ... very good qualifications but they get money from the Government.  I think it's unfair.  They just sit there and the Government will give them money.  The Maoris often do some very bad things," she said.  "I don't like it.  Maybe sometimes I hate them.  Sometimes they are very rude."

Even Pacific Islanders such as Cara Santos, another AUT student, are trying to understand Maori treaty claims with virtually no knowledge of New Zealand history.  "The people who tried to sign the treaty really have no claim on it because they chose to sign.  It's not the Government's fault, it's their fault," she said.

Many have no wish to learn more.  "The Maori thing is not going to apply for me, I'm a Muslim," said Adil Balizi, a Moroccan working for Air New Zealand at Auckland Airport.

A Chinese real estate agent in Howick said: "I'm not voting.  I can't be bothered.  I don't know how many years we'll be here."

Yet despite all this, there is room for hope.  For one thing, the immigrants appreciate even the kind of democracy that we are experiencing this month.  "We feel if we live here the Government will listen to us," said Howick College student Gevin Yang, from China.

The Singaporean executive who ended up in a Lotto shop said: "You've got a democracy which is a real democracy."  He later emailed asking the Herald not to use his name with his comments about Singapore because "I have family living on that island and they may be persecuted because of my open comments".

Georgia Molia said: "There is racism here in New Zealand, but it's not as bad as in Australia.  I can walk down the street in Australia and people can throw words at me just because I'm black."

A Fiji Indian student echoed her: "I have lived in Australia as well.  There is more equal opportunity here.  The economy isn't that great but it is improving.  There is more opportunity here in work and lifestyle."

Alvin Woon and Mary-Ann Hong, both young Malaysians who have grown up on the North Shore, said: "The economy is pretty good compared with a few years ago and we haven't got many complaints about anything else."

Tamea Vaisima, an Otara mother who came from Tonga in 1974, said things had improved.  "New Zealand has got better since 1974.  They got used to the Island people being here and other nationalities.  "It's got better for all of us."

In last year's census, 29% of Aucklanders claimed Pacific Island, Asian or other ethnicity apart from European and Maori.  For comparison, only 11.6% were Maori.  (Some claimed more than one ethnicity, so the figures have some overlap.)  Ethnic groups other than Europeans and Maori made up only 8.1% of the people in the rest of the North Island, and only 5.2% in the South Island.  Maori easily outnumbered them everywhere except Auckland.  This geographical split has created a potential for misunderstanding.  Many migrants believe, as a Samoan/Chinese student in Manukau put it, that "there are just as many Samoans as there are Maori".  Or Chinese, or Indians.  In Auckland, that is almost true - last year's census showed it had 154,680 Pacific Islanders and 127,629 Maori.  There were also 165,264 Asians and other non-Europeans with 754,749 Europeans, giving Auckland increasingly the flavour of a true international city - and a completely different feel from, say, Hastings or Wanganui.

Many Pacific Island families have been in NZ for a generation, yet 67% of their people are still concentrated in Auckland.  By comparison, the city has 64% of New Zealand's Asians.  So it is primarily Auckland which is going to have to find a more secure place for the newcomers in its schools, workplaces and communities if the new groups are to contribute their full potential.  The rest of NZ can do its bit with those who find their way there.  But for the most part, immigration is a challenge for Auckland.

Source: 10 July 2002

I'm curious: If certain people have "virtually no knowledge of New Zealand history..." (especially if they "have no wish to learn more...") why burden the reader with those persons' uninformed opinions regarding Maori treaty claims?

Muslims Struggle for Jobs

Abdelfattah Qasem, a Christchurch-based Palestinian,
has applied for 500 jobs.  Despite his experience, companies
reply that they have found someone more suitable.

by Janine Bennetts

Over half of Christchurch's adult Muslim migrants are unemployed - the worst rate in New Zealand, Muslim groups say.  The Muslim Association of Canterbury says this is despite many adults being highly trained professionals with years of higher education.  Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Javed Khan said Muslim unemployment was a problem throughout the country, but Christchurch's figures seemed much worse than anywhere else.  After more than 500 job applications, information technology (IT) specialist Abdelfattah Qasem, who is secretary of the Canterbury association, is still unemployed.  Of the hundreds of jobs he has applied for during the 4 years he has lived in New Zealand, Qasem has had only one telephone interview.

There are about 3,000 Muslims in Christchurch, and Qasem said well over half of the Muslim adults in the city could not find jobs.  Many people were IT specialists, doctors, engineers or teachers in their home countries and had assumed that their degrees and international experience would make getting a job in New Zealand easy.  "There are so many opportunities here, and this is what we see on the internet and this is what immigration says, but no immigration or anyone can force people to hire certain people," Qasem said.  He is from Palestine and has an IT degree from a private institute in Texas.  He had more than 20 years experience in the industry as an IT manager and consultant in Kuwait, earning about $NZ100,000 a year, before he came to New Zealand.  Most of his rejection letters said the firms had found someone who met their requirements better than he did, Qasem said.  When he applied for lower positions, he was told he was over-qualified.  Qasem said the unemployment problem was frustrating for Muslim families, and in some cases led to divorces or depression.  He estimated that 25% of people ended up returning home.

Enterprise Recruitment manager of IT recruitment Alan Diepraam, who was shown Qasem's curriculum vitae yesterday, said Qasem's qualifications and experience looked good on paper, but IT was a specialised industry and applicants had to fit a long list of requirements.  Qasem has never been in full-time work in New Zealand.  Family members were lucky that his job in Kuwait had given them enough money to buy a house in Christchurch, but it was hard not having a steady income, Diepraam said.  Qasem has not been able to afford to send his 3 children home to visit friends and family.

Mohammed Jabawe, who is the head of Christchurch's Iraqi community, has a Phd in architecture and city planning from the University of Manchester in England.  He worked for a decade overseas before coming to Christchurch 10 years ago.  Unable to get a job suited to his qualifications here, he did odd jobs until he bought a dairy in Avonhead 5 years ago.  Jabawe said one of the hardest parts of unemployment was not the financial strain but that the education and skills he had were going to waste.  "I feel sorry because I know we have intelligence. It's not money, it's education," he said.

Office of Ethnic Affairs director Mervin Singham said employers were often afraid of the risks in taking on someone from another country.  Singham said host countries needed to realise the benefits of hiring people from overseas and the advantages linguistic and cultural diversity could bring to businesses.  In December 2004, the Department of Labour set up a natural-settlement strategy that includes goals for improving employment opportunities for migrants and refugees.

Source: 19 January 2006 photo credit David Hallett / The Press

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