Immigration is not just a vague political issue to me. It affects my life on a day to day basis. How the government views immigration decides whether my grandmother can come and live with me. How the person interviewing me for a job feels about immigration can decide if I get a job or not. In the west immigrants are spoken about not as people but as a threat, one that is not made up of actual human beings, rather automatons who steal jobs and commit crimes regardless of the actual nature of the situation.
They worry about floods of immigrants and the potential they have to erode white privilege, they panic about being a minority in their own country. Immigrants are divided into good and bad. The good are the ones who assimilate almost completely, they give up their language, their culture, their funny clothes and they embrace what it means to be a New Zealander. The bad ones are the ones that clump together, speaking their own language (and putting up signs in it) eating their own food, and still wear their funny clothes. “They don’t even TRY to assimilate,” people say disapprovingly, “they hang out only with each other! They form”ghettoes”.
As someone who looks like a good immigrant people feel it is ok to say to me as I’m standing in line for the toilet at a party, “not to be racist or anything, I like Auckland but there are way too many Asians there.” Expecting me to agree, because that is the other thing about ‘good’ immigrants, we are nearly as good as white people (not quite though) so we are expected to defend that position by shitting on other immigrants who don’t present as ‘good’.
Immigration is caused by many things. Push and pull factors are myriad. However the structural inequalities in the world, which exist because of massive factors such as colonialism mean that wealth is concentrated in certain places. Certain places which obviously attract immigrants. Please do not labour under the assumption that my parents emigrated here because they wanted a piece of western life. They emigrated because they could make more money here. They emigrated because there were more opportunities here. Those things exist because of the unjust structure of the capitalist world.
Emigration means the rupture of a family. The loss of everything you know. Voluntarily becoming marginalised. These are not things people choose on a whim. They are painful decisions that are weighed up over and over. If you would like immigrants to “go back where they came from” you need to think about why they left in the first place. If we focus on ending global inequality then maybe people will remain in their home countries in order to make them flourish.
What I find even more amusing (read disgusting) is that the very people who spout vitriol at immigrants for not assimilating consider themselves expats when they move overseas. By changing the label it gives them the license to never even integrate. They never try to learn the language or interact with locals. They send their children to schools where they only meet other “expats.” They are the worst of ‘bad immigrants’ because they maintain a sense of superiority the country and culture in which they have chosen to live.