Anchor me

Indian-born Hawkes Bay-resident overstayers Sital and Usha Ram are to be deported with or without their three children, who are New Zealand citizens aged eight and six. These are not ‘anchor babies’ in the US sense that that hate-term is employed; no attempt has been made by the Rams to mislead Immigration or to hide from the authorities, nor are they using their childrens’ citizenship status to thumb their noses at the powers that be. This is, for all intents and purposes, a model New Zealand family.

The children, as New Zealand citizens, have a “cardinal and absolute right of residence” according to a 2008 judicial ruling, which means they can on no account be deported. This is where they belong, it’s where they live, the only place in the world they can do so in full legality, since it is impossible to exchange their New Zealand citizenship for Indian citizenship until they turn 18 (and indeed, nobody can force them to do so).

As the article says, they face a terrible choice: return to India and condemn their children to a life of poverty, or return to India alone and leave their children behind. But it’s not really much of a choice: they can’t simply abandon their children in either sense. Fundamentally, the terrible choice is faced by the government, who must decide whether to tear a family quite literally apart, permanently. To demonstrate their loyalty both to their children and to their country and therefore to win this battle in the public view, the Rams need do nothing more than peacefully resist being separated from their children. Call the government’s bluff. Let Immigration enforcers tear apart mother and daughter, father and sons. Let them carry the parents bodily to the paddywagon, and from the paddywagon to the waiting aircraft. Let it be known that this is the government’s doing; their choice, not that of the parents. This is a chance to force the government to actually do the dirty work of eviction and deportation, to undertake the harsh deeds which their tough-on-everything rhetoric implies. And they should be forced to put their actions where their words are.

So my advice to Usha and Sital Ram is: invite John Campbell into your home. Let him and his camera crew be present at the time of the forcible separation; in your living room and at the airport, and let the whole world watch, and listen to the wailing. The narrative will be big bad Muldoonist Daddy State jack-boot dawn raids, breaking down doors and wrecking families in 2010 as in 1980, and the country will need to decide: is this who we are? Does this represent us and our aspirational, compassionate, multicultural society?

And, as Pablo suggests in his recent post about Paul Henry, it’s a question which needs to be answered.

Update: As usual it’s occurred to me that a poet has previously expressed my core argument in two lines:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
(Dylan Thomas)


8 thoughts on “Anchor me

  1. this week, middle new zealand has exposed the stench of its unwashed armpit to the world, where the maggots of ignorance have burrowed deep into the gangrenous flesh of hypocrisy and transmogrified themselves into the buzzing flies of talkback radio that feast on the carcass of civil society and gorge on the bitter and rotting fruits of outraged privilege.

  2. Dang, Michael.

    When it comes to hyperbole you got me beat by a country mile! Good on ya.

  3. I’ve set up a Facebook group where you can register your support for the Ram family:!/pages/Kate-Wilkinson-show-compassion-towards-the-Ram-family/161496363870064?v=wall

    I’m a (white) 5th generation New Zealander and I don’t believe that most New Zealanders want a society devoid of compassion, diversity and understanding. We’re all immigrants. Many of us have known hardship, or have ancestors who have.

    This family has not sought to hide from immigration. What deception (or lack of full and complete honesty) has occurred has been borne out of a desperate desire for a better future for their children. That desire is human, and transcends race, culture or religion. Let New Zealand not forget its humanity in this case.

    Aid begins at home. Kate Wilkinson & John Key would do well to remember this. There is no point in buying votes during an international crisis if you cannot protect KIWI children from debilitating poverty. To deport the Rams would be politically unwise – the politically conservative have souls and hearts too.

  4. Also – think not only of the family, but of the wider consequences to the community.

    Children are colour-blind. I have a daughter at a high-decile school in Wellington. Politicians’ children may well number among her classmates. Some of her friends are immigrants or have parents who are – Chinese, Russian, African, Indian – she would be devastated if one of them, through no fault of their own, was forced to leave, and she would not understand. I would struggle to explain it to her too, as it makes little sense in the scheme of what is fair or right – which is how I’ve tried to raise her for the last six years.

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