You Need Us

Immigrants to New Zealand

Immigrants to New Zealand

Sometimes I am amused by the shape that public discussions take when immigration is the issue. It is always, “they are stealing our jobs”, “they don’t assimilate”, “if they don’t like it they can go somewhere else” blah blah blah. Over and over again around and around in circles. Always a crucial factor is ignored and erased. You need us. With your ageing and declining population, with your brain drain, with your skilled labour shortage. You need us. Immigration isn’t a one way relationship, we aren’t all just helplessly banging at the door hoping that you will let us in, for some of us the door is wide open and the flags are up and the trumpets are celebrating our arrival because without us the economy would be tanked, there wouldn’t be enough nurses, engineers, care workers, construction managers and a wide range of health care professionals. Immigrants aren’t taking jobs we are coming to take jobs where there aren’t enough people to do them. Opening your doors is not something you do as a favour but something you do because there is a very real need for immigrants.

Immigrants are all sorts of people, but in order to get into this country they have to meet pretty strict criteria. These days things that can count against you include having low English proficiency and having an obese BMI. That is correct you can potentially be denied the right to live in New Zealand if you are too fat by an arbitrary standard that has no basis in medical science. My parents were part of the first wave of immigrants to arrive on this points based system in the late 1980’s. It was when New Zealand stopped overtly racially discriminating against immigrants of colour and rated people equally based on their skills rather than unfairly advantaging immigrants from Britain, Europe or Northern America based on their race. This was because after coming close to economic collapse in 1987 New Zealand was desperately in need of skilled migrants to reinvigorate the economy. People choose to immigrate for many reasons and there are both push and pull factors at play, but to act as though our presence in the country is a gift to us that we should be grateful for is a fallacy, a myth you feed yourselves to feel better about your racist attitudes.

Please remember this the next time you think or talk about immigration. It is a two way street. I’m sure it must chafe, but at least let’s be honest about it right? Immigrant’s aren’t here on sufferance. There are certainly problems with how globalised labour flows operate but that isn’t what you are angry about. You are mad about the browning of your country, about it feeling like it isn’t yours anymore, except was it ever yours? This country was taken from those who came before you and despite what you think at this point it is still safely in your hands. You still make all the rules, you still control the vast majority of political and financial power, your supremacy is safe for now. However, if immigration makes you uncomfortable, if more correctly people of colour in your back yard make you uncomfortable then perhaps you should take a look at yourself and have a critical think about why that is. You are likely to find that you are in fact a racist. It might be a shock to you, but that’s OK. Knowing is a step towards fixing the problem. You might want to begin to critically examine your attitudes towards people of colour. It will probably be tiring and challenging at first but the up shot is that you will become less racist which means you will become a better person.


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