Lib Dem Mum 5: Horrified about immigration

Do you have a problem for Lib Dem Mum? Email [email protected] or DM @lib_mum on twitter in complete confidentiality – only Lib Dem Mum sees messages to these accounts. No one in the team at LDV has access (and for the avoidance of doubt Lib Dem Mum’s views are her own and not those of the LDV team).

All correspondents will be acknowledged, and if you are published you will be given a pseudonym.

I am very excited this week, dears, because I received an actual letter, rather than an email or a DM! I have typed this out myself, but you can see a photo of the original – in green ink and everything – on my twitter account here.



Dear Lib Dem Mum,

I am writing to you to ask about the horror that is immigration into the UK. What do we need to do to make it easier for people to immigrate into our country and to make the country more welcoming to people who would like to live here?

Yours ever

Horrified by Immigration, Manchester

Dear Horrified

(I hope you don’t mind if I call you Horrified)

You are quite right to highlight that immigrating to the UK is a tortuous, uncaring, expensive, bureaucratic nightmare; the Home Office are unnecessarily cruel and heartless; and the current Home Secretary does utterly evil things when it comes to dealing with immigrants – continuing a tradition that has dogged the last several governments of whatever stripe – yes, even the one with us in. I admit I’m paraphrasing your point a little, but I do not think unfairly.

There’s a lot we need to do to make it easier. I, personally, would start by repealing all anti-immigrant laws (yes, even that one, no, I don’t care if it has some tiny benefit alongside its racism and horror). We’ve only had them for 115 years, we won’t miss them. Then, I would abolish the Home Office. Its actual useful functions (issuing of passports and so forth) could be done by other departments, and its core is too entrenched in racist dogma now to be allowed to survive, and has been so for many years whether the party in charge is red or blue. Thirdly, I would require all newspaper corrections to be printed on the same page and in the same font weight as the original incorrect item. This would have a range of benefits beyond forcing the racist sections of the press to be less racist, but it would help in that regard too. There are a lot of additional educational and cultural changes I would like to make too…

Of course, even with a Lib Dem majority government, those things would be a big ask. Some of our MPs seem afraid of displaying their liberal principles, and tend instead to urge caution, or try to meet racists in the middle. I therefore have a list of more practical suggestions that you, Horrified, can do by yourself without waiting for a Lib Dem majority government.

  1. Listen to what actual immigrants actually want. There is nothing worse than someone who wants to help doing something that is the opposite of helpful out of misguided kindness. This works as a general principle, I find. Listen to black people. Listen to trans people. Listen to teenagers. Of course you don’t have to give uncritical credence to everything they say, but believe them when they tell you of their lived experience.
  2. Join Lib Dem Immigrants. Like most of our party’s internal organisations you don’t have to fit the demographic to join and be an ally, so just as you don’t need to be LGBT+ to join LGBT+LDs, you do not need to be an actual immigrant to join LDI and make policy and lobby for better treatment of immigrants.
  3. Give time and/or money to a charity that helps immigrants. A few suggestions:
    1. JCWI
    2. International Rescue, if you can stomach giving money to a charity run by David Milliband.
    3. UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group.
    4. Find a local charity which is helping immigrants in your area.
  4. Lobby your MP. Yes, even if they are anti-immigrant. They need to know that not all concerns about immigration are of the kind that wants to make it harsher.

I hope that helps a little, Horrified.

Love always

Lib Dem Mum


* Do you have a problem for Lib Dem Mum? Email [email protected] or DM @lib_mum on twitter in complete confidentiality - only Lib Dem Mum sees messages to these accounts. No one in the team at LDV has access (and for the avoidance of doubt Lib Dem Mum’s views are her own and not those of the LDV team).

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  • Catherine Jane Crosland 9th Sep '20 - 1:01pm

    As a party, we need to be openly and proudly pro immigration. The preamble to the constitution says that we believe in “the free movement of people”. The context makes it clear that this does not just mean within the EU. It does mean worldwide freedom of movement. We need to make it clear that this is our ideal – even if complete worldwide freedom of movement has to be a long term rather than an immediate goal. We do believe that all people should have the right to move freely around the earth, making their home wherever they choose.
    We should make it clear that, while we may for the moment have to accept some controls on immigration, we regard this as regrettable. We should aim for an immigration system which prioritises people with the greatest need to come to Britain, rather than just those who may be most “useful” to us – although of course there will be a good deal of overlap between these two categories. We should especially welcome asylum seekers.
    As you say, our MPs and candidates are sometimes afraid to be openly and enthusiastically pro immigration, because they are afraid it is not a “vote winner”. They may be underestimating voters. But even if it were true that being pro immigration would lose us votes – well, as a party we ought to believe that standing up for liberal principles is more important than winning votes.

  • Peter Watson 9th Sep '20 - 3:34pm

    @Catherine Jane Crosland “As a party, we need to be openly and proudly pro immigration. … We should make it clear that, while we may for the moment have to accept some controls on immigration, we regard this as regrettable.”
    In which case the party needs to be very precise about exactly what controls it believes are acceptable or necessary, under what circumstances they should be scrapped, what benefits will be available (and when) to those immigrants who are not ‘most “useful” to us’, etc. Otherwise Lib Dems will look two-faced, virtue signalling with the first point to one audience while defending themselves with the second point from another audience, without it being clear where exactly they stand and failing to distinguish themselves from other parties. After all, the other parties, including Nigel Farage’s, make pretty much the same statements, beginning with “in an ideal world but …” and boiling it all down to “some immigration is good”.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Sep '20 - 8:07am

    Freddie, I feel that there are two categories of people who should always be able to come to the UK.
    First and foremost, those who have the greatest need to come to the UK. This would include people who wish to join spouses, partners, and close family members in the UK. The right to join a partner or family member should be regarded as a human right, and there should be no income requirement.
    Secondly, people in occupations for which the UK has an especial need. These will not all be highly paid jobs. For example, we need care assistants as well as doctors.
    People in these categories should automatically be able to come to Britain, with no limit on numbers. I would suggest that there should also be a certain number of places every year for people who do not fall into either of these categories, but who, for a number of reasons, would like to come to the UK.
    But as I mentioned in my previous comment, we should make it clear that, as a party, we believe in freedom of movement, and want to move towards a world in which no controls on immigration are necessary.

  • Peter Watson 10th Sep '20 - 9:47am

    @Catherine Jane Crosland “we believe in freedom of movement, and want to move towards a world in which no controls on immigration are necessary”
    The only way I can see that happening is if the UK is made no more attractive for migrants, economic or otherwise, than any other country, either by levelling up living standards in the rest of the world or by levelling down the UK. The Lib Dems can only have a significant impact on one of these and I don’t think it would be a popular choice!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Sep '20 - 7:08pm

    Freddie, why do you object to the idea of people being able to join partners and family members in the uk? Why should we expect the UK resident to move to the country of their partner or family member – something that may not even be possible? This is about the right to marriage and family life – a basic human right.
    As you mention, the occupations for which we have an especial need will change over time. There is no “failure in logic” there. The occupations to be included could be reviewed from time to time, as skill shortages change.
    You ask “why unlimited freedom of movement is a good thing”. I think its about the right of the individual to live the sort of life they choose, which should include making their home wherever they choose. As Lib Dem Mum mentions, controls on immigration are actually quite new. Before the twentieth century, freedom of movement was taken for granted

  • John Barrett 10th Sep '20 - 9:18pm

    Catherine – “Before the twentieth century, freedom of movement was taken for granted

    I suspect that the truth is that before the 20th century, for most people on the planet, who were not wealthy, genuine freedom of movement to another country was virtually non-existent.

    The lack of immigration controls before the 20th century was no doubt partly because the numbers were low as affordable international travel, apart from going to neighbouring countries, is a relatively recent event. In the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion, so the issues of today are not those of pre-20th century.

    One question for those who believe in unlimited immigration now is the question of unlimited access to the NHS, the education system and housing. You can’t support one without the other and I doubt any party will ever try to sell that proposal to the British public at election time.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 11th Sep '20 - 6:36am

    John Barrett, immigration is nothing new. As long as there has been civilization, there have been “economic migrants”, there have been refugees and asylum seekers, there have been people who have moved to another country because they fell in love with someone from that country, and there have been people who moved to another country in a spirit of adventure.
    Irish immigration to America in the 19th Century. Huguenot refugees in the seventeenth century. The passengers of the Mayflower and others who sought religious freedom in the “new world”. Not many of these were wealthy.

  • Thank you Catherine for your excellent comments.

    Speaking for myself, I am in favour of unlimited free movement because I am a Liberal and I believe people should be free to live, work, and love wherever they choose so long as they are not harming others by doing so.

    Who is anyone to tell me, if I fall in love with someone who happens to have been born on another part of the planet, that we cannot be together because of arbitrary rules? Who is anyone to tell me that I cannot make connections in some places, but must be restricted to the place I was born?

    Katerina is right: immigrants have enriched our language, our culture, and our food in amazing ways. We should welcome them and the new ideas and skills they bring.

  • John Barrett 12th Sep '20 - 6:03pm

    Catherine – maybe you can give accurate figures, but from what I have been able to see online, before the 20th century it appears that the numbers were very low.

    My parents were economic migrants from the UK and I was born abroad, but since then the numbers have increased dramatically.

    Unlimited free movement of people into the UK from elsewhere around the world may have been possible before we had an NHS or fee access to education, but since much of the world naturally would like both, those who support unlimited free movement should say how we would be expected to cope.

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