Throw out Theresa May’s Immigration Bill

Teresa May’s Immigration Bill should be rejected by Parliament and will be opposed by Liberal Democrat MPs. This is a totally illiberal bill which deeply erodes civil rights and diminishes human liberties by giving immigration officers and the executive extreme powers. It is proposed that immigration officers get powers to enter premises, strip search and arrest, breaching the rights of legal or suspected illegal immigrants. We all know about unconscious bias and BAME people will be adversely affected, bearing the brunt of the proposed legislation. It also extends the powers of the executive in unwarranted ways and undermines the independence of courts by removing people without power of in-country appeal. It also includes electronic tagging and threatens the rights of children in detention, possibly leading to children being separated from their parents. This is unacceptable as children should be protected regardless of who their parents are. This bill could make discrimination even worse when landlords fearing prosecution do not rent homes to migrants or even to people who may appear to be migrants or have non-British names. Evidence shows that migrants and those with foreign-sounding names are already likely to be discriminated against.

To be effective, the proposed Immigration legislation depends on amateur enforcers in the form of landlords, banking officers and especially small employers, which will do nothing for community cohesion and for our economy. As noted during yesterday’s debate in Parliament, the powers already available are barely implemented. Maybe Theresa May’s office should use what is available more effectively before resorting to additional legislation.

It is true that immigration is a concern to many people in Britain, but this legislation is not the answer. We could instead use measures that target traffickers and rogue, exploitative employers. We could give more powers for border officers to search sea vessels and lorries. As one MP noted during the debate, we could distribute the benefits and costs of immigration more evenly, and settling migrants where they are needed, including Scotland. Legislation is currently available so the Home Office should do its job better and not force ordinary people to become snoopers. As some in the debate observed, even if the proposed legislation leads to a slightly reduction in migration numbers, this cannot justify its dangers and costs.

* Joyce Wangui Onstad is a Vice Chair of the Federal Board and on the Executive of the Ealing Local Party.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

32 Comments

  • “we could distribute the benefits and costs of immigration more evenly”

    Having a regional element to immigration would be significant improvement.

  • nigel hunter 14th Oct '15 - 9:45am

    Sounds like a first step to a police state with May at its head.. As you have said they need only use the existing powers. Playing to the fears of others has always been to the advantage of politicians after power.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Oct '15 - 10:09am

    ‘we could distribute the benefits and costs of immigration more evenly’

    This is simply not credible. Firstly, how exactly are you going to implement this and make it stick in anything other than the very short term? Secondly, you are tacitly (at least) accepting that some places are going to have to step forward and accept the, ‘costs,’ of immigration. Who exactly is going to volunteer for this? Thirdly, when you talk of the, ‘benefits,’ I’d have to ask who exactly gets these, ‘benefits.’ The local BTL landlords might love a nice influx, whether the young, priced out workers in the area would see benefits is debateable at best.

    Look – I’m no spitting immigrant basher but thinking on this subject has to be a bit deeper that the sort of pie-in-the-sky hopey changey stuff presented in the article. It’s just not credible otherwise.

  • David Evershed 14th Oct '15 - 11:10am

    Joyce

    I think you will find that people with foreign sounding names are more likely to be foreigners.

    Lib Dems should support law enforcement being focussed on higher risk factors.

  • LJP

    One example of “spreading” immigration would be allowing regional governments (if we ever get there in England) to issue immigration visas that allow people to live and work in only that region. The most important aspect of this would be allowing greater variation of the minimum income requirement of certain visas.

    A minimum income requirement set at a national level will always favour the highest paying region (London and the South East). Often you can have highly skilled young people who would like to work in the UK to build experience (sometimes with the intention of staying sometimes with the intention of moving on).

    It would provide the advantage to regions with lower costs of living and wages to make use of immigration to their economic benefit.

  • “One example of “spreading” immigration would be allowing regional governments (if we ever get there in England) to issue immigration visas that allow people to live and work in only that region. ”

    So if all regional governments come back and say they want zero immigration, unless monies are forthcoming from central government, because due to cuts in their funding they don’t have sufficient monies to properly address the issues facing their existing populations…

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Oct '15 - 12:08pm

    Psi – Even if I did think that regional visas was viable, which I don’t…How do you plan to spread the high-cost immigrants?

    ‘Often you can have highly skilled young people who would like to work in the UK to build experience’

    If you are building experience then 99.9% of the time you are not, ‘highly skilled,’ by any meaningful definition.

  • jedibeeftrix 14th Oct '15 - 1:17pm

    …. and does this regional migrant allocation apply to eu migrants? Im not sure that is possible, so we’d only be restricting non eu migrants….

  • Joyce Onstad 14th Oct '15 - 1:38pm

    Thank you for engaging. What is clear to me is that the bill as it stands is totally illiberal and should be thrown out! The detail of replacement measures is something to be debated and worked out .

  • suzanne fletcher 14th Oct '15 - 2:30pm

    Well I thought it was a good well thought out article. Yes there is detail to be looked into and discussed, that is what politics can do. the article does not cover every single thing, it can’t and wouldn’t get read if it did, don’t forget LDV is supposed to be a political discussion board, not a platform for perfectly thought out, costed, conuslted on already proposals.
    Not only does the bill have so many reasons why it is a bad bill, it looks like it is going to negate some parts of the trafficking ct just recently brought in..
    Nor does it even touch on the many issues raised by the current refugee crisis hitting Europe (and let us not forget what is happening in Europe is only a small part of al much larger issue world wide).
    Keep on thinking Joyce and write again !

  • Lester Holloway 14th Oct '15 - 3:41pm

    @ Little Jackie Paper – It is entirely possible to distribute the benefits and costs of immigration with additional funding for frontline services where they come under pressure, and by managing the process better, for instance better matching the distribution of settlement by skills to areas where those skills are in demand. It’s not rocket science, it just needs more coordination between central and local government. In terms of who benefits, the OECD have calculated the net economic benefits of immigration. Some of this additional income, in personal tax and company tax stemming from increased productivity, clearly needs to be allocated to support local services rather than simply being swallowed up in deficit reduction by the Treasury.

    @ David Evershed: “Joyce, I think you will find that people with foreign sounding names are more likely to be foreigners.” Evershed seems like a pretty unusual name to me. And the name David could come from anywhere really, but it originates from the Middle East.

    @ Jayne Mansfield – I think the answer is not to ‘force’ immigrants to remain in a geographical area but to allocate them where there are opportunities that match their skills, which requires a bit of joined-up government as I mentioned above.

    @ jedibeeftrix – This government is already restricting rights for EU citizens, and is currently being taken to the European Court of Justice on right to remain and benefits, which allegedly breaks EU agreements. In terms of allocation, it has to apply to non-EU only I would have thought, but we can better match skills with opportunities for EU and non-EU alike, surely?

    @ Teena Lashmore – Agree. This Bill is quite pernicious in many respects. The Government is refusing to publish the housing pilot (landlord checks) in Birmingham, presumably on the basis that it shows the measure leads to racial profiling, which also affects British citizens who happen to look ‘foreign’. Thankfully they dropped the measure affecting GPs before the Bill was laid, as this would have led to immigrants not getting healthcare and being at risk. It all adds up to spreading a very negative atmosphere.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Oct '15 - 4:10pm

    Lester Holloway – So in other words, funding adaptation to migration is a higher priority than is deficit reduction? To my mind that is a profoundly political stance and I’d want the voters to endorse that one.

    The problem I have with your argument here is three fold. Quite aside from whether deficit reduction (for example) should be the higher priority, you seem to assume that things don’t change. They do. As others have pointed out there is nothing to stop these migrants moving around regardless of where they are needed. You talk about, ‘settlement,’ but I fail to see how that is anything but short-term. No amount of, ‘coordination,’ changes this. Moreover the longer-term questions are rather more than theoretical (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25880373). I most certainly am very dubious about the real-world value of calculations of so-called, ‘net benefit.’

    There is then the question of family reunion migration. By definition I would suggest that can not be accommodated in a regional skills-matching idea and at a minimum would have a significant bearing on the cost side of an equation. In future years I suspect that family reunion will become a very big issue for Germany.

    Lastly, given that there is still considerable unemployment and under-employment I’d have to ask the question about using what we have before immigration. There will always be high-skilled niche areas of global shortages and there will always be a need for immigration. But that is a world away from generalised immigration.

    Look Mr Holloway, I’m not without sympathy here. Mrs Paper is an East European migrant and I am very grateful indeed for the way she integrated and the opportunities she had. But looking at the immigration question through rose-tints is no better or more helpful than is being overly negative. Immigration is a question that needs and deserves something more thought out than crossing our fingers and hoping that the migrants sent to less nice parts of the country will stay there and also come good on the balance sheet. Let’s at least acknowledge as much.

  • Lester Holloway 14th Oct '15 - 4:31pm

    @ Little Jackie Paper – Do call me Lester, “Mr Holloway” is terribly formal for a Liberal forum!
    You ask “So in other words, funding adaptation to migration is a higher priority than is deficit reduction?” I was arguing two things (a) that migration brings economic benefits as proven by the OECD, and (b) some of those tax benefits should indeed be directed towards ensuring public services cope with rises in local population, to avoid stress on public services and resultant public antagonism. Not having immigration will damage our economy. Having immigration places an onus on the state to plan services so that there are not shortages of anything, and brings economic benefits.

    People will stay where there are jobs, especially jobs they want or settle for, that is the historic pattern of immigration to Britain, as evidenced by areas that have settled communities since the 50s (Caribbean) and 70s (Asian). Newly arrived communities are more likely to move around if they are ‘placed’ without any thought about jobs to skills. That transience is the single biggest factor that causes pressure on public services, not immigration per se.

    You say: “Lastly, given that there is still considerable unemployment and under-employment I’d have to ask the question about using what we have before immigration. There will always be high-skilled niche areas of global shortages and there will always be a need for immigration. But that is a world away from generalised immigration.”

    One of the problems with the immigration debate is that it flattens too many categories together. High-skilled adults, semi- and non-skilled adults, top students, other students, family reunions, and refugees / asylum seekers often get lumped together. The way the Government compiles immigration figures, including students, does not help. I would argue that while high-skilled or highly-educated adults and young people can certainly fill skills gaps in the economy, we should also remember that many immigrants are also highly entrepreneurial and this doesn’t necessarily need pre-existing high-skills or education.

  • Sorry for the delay, this silly flood protection thing is not very helpful to informative discussion.

    LJP & Roland

    I am not talking about all immigration but one specific part of immigration. Those that of visas that are income dependent, which by their nature are not students (31% of the total) or EU citizens (53% of the total) this is about a particular section.

    Roland

    “So if all regional governments come back and say they want zero immigration, unless monies are forthcoming from central government”

    I’m talking about a separate system from a visa granted by the national government, so any region could come back and say they will issue none and that would be entirely separate, this form of visa would be to allow the region to benefit.

    It may also make sense to make student visas regional dependent with a bit of flexibility as that would make abuse of the system a little more difficult, but I’m not sure it would be worth the effort.

    LJP

    “Even if I did think that regional visas was viable, which I don’t”

    Jayne Mansfield

    “I never did understand how a regional points based system whereby migrants could only work where they were needed could be enacted without using fairly illiberal measures. How does one force someone to stay in a particular area?”

    If a visa has a regional restriction, an employer will take note of that restriction, and if they employ someone in London who has a visa to work in the North West then they are breaching Immigration laws in the same was as if they employed someone with no visa. If the concern is that some employers will employ people without visas or outside of the visa conditions then that is a problem regardless of the system. If you are concerned that people may disappear and work outside of the visa restrictions then that is no different to those who would enter and overstay under a tourist visa, the difference is that the marginal benefit is reduced compared to illegal working being the only option.

    LJP

    “If you are building experience then 99.9% of the time you are not, ‘highly skilled,’ by any meaningful definition.”

    Perhaps you would be more comfortable with “highly qualified” in the case of scientists and engineers, there can be a lot of knowledge but it can take several years of experience to get an employers to pay you as well as certain other areas (finance seems to be willing to pay a lot when Science can’t).

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th Oct '15 - 5:51pm

    Psi 14th Oct ’15 – 4:51pm
    Sorry for the delay, this silly flood protection thing is not very helpful to informative discussion.

    I agree P and, as a visit to most popular articles will show, it does not limit two people ‘dominating’ a thread.

    What it does do very effectively though is prevent a person who posts perhaps on the train or when they get in from work from posting individual comments across several threads. Great for people who are not encumbered by a normal 9-5 or shift employment though!

  • @Psi
    “If a visa has a regional restriction, an employer will take note of that restriction, and if they employ someone in London who has a visa to work in the North West then they are breaching Immigration laws in the same was as if they employed someone with no visa.”

    Of course, what you are suggesting was the gist of the Lib Dems’ immigration policy in 2010 – a policy which was later memorably described by Andrew (now Lord) Stunell as like something out of Nazi Germany :-

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lib-dem-conference-former-minister-sir-andrew-stunell-describes-partys-immigration-policy-as-like-8821709.html

    “It would provide the advantage to regions with lower costs of living and wages to make use of immigration to their economic benefit.”

    The main political advantage of the 2010 policy seemed to be that it enabled the likes of Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne to go round the south of England dog-whistling like crazy, telling voters that the regional visas would help keep their drinking water out of the hands (and mouths) of immigrants :-

    http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/politics/elections/election_2010/eastleigh/news/8102360.Huhne_calls_for_immigration_clampdown_in_the_south/?ref=mac

  • Stuart

    Well that is embaressing that a politician with 18 years in parliament could use such a terrible argument. It is one of the first things you have to teach school children not to do in debating. When you explain that Nazis built roads that doesn’t make road building wrong and comparisons show you have little else to rely on. But I guess we all say dumb things from time to time so best we just avoid bringing it up.

    Though apparently he does understand as he is quoted as saying:
    “Perhaps we penalise employers who take on people who are only licensed to work in Yorkshire. You could do it.”

    Which would appear to be the obvious thing to do as that is currently easiest bit of immigration enforcement.

    Jayne Mansfield

    “Or personal circumstances change, for example, a person falls in love and wants to move closer to the home of that person who works in a different region where there is less opportunity?”

    It would depend, if we are talking about two lower paying regions it is unlikely they will choose to set very different lower earnings thresholds from each other so applying to the second region should be simple. The second possibility is that as the person has been here longer they may have increased their earning potential so as to be able to meet the requirements for the national visa.

    There will still be hard cases where it does restrict some people, and it will feel unjust, but I have had friends who were seperated (from spouses) by continents due to immigration restrictions. Being in a different region is a step up from that at least.

  • Joyce Onstad

    Just to clarify, thanks for the article. I agree, the current bill is nonsense hence why I’m moving on to discuss other improvements we could make to the system.

    It should be pointed out one of the biggest drivers of immigration has been the poor economic situation in Europe, more pressure for the EuroZone to follow better policies would have been a good idea.

  • @Psi – Thanks for the extra details of how a regional immigration system might look; unfortunately the impression it gives is of additional complexity for no real gain but lots of additional effort and expenditure; just like much of the debate around political devolution and regional assemblies that keep popping up on LDV. Personally, I think all the discussion of EVEL and English regional assemblies is simply supporting the SNP in their twisted desire to break up the union.

  • “The way the Government compiles immigration figures, including students, does not help.” (Lester Holloway 14th Oct ’15 – 4:31pm)

    From trying to unravel the student component of the headline figure, I think the problem is more about the lack of published detail, along the lines you indicate, as that would enable a more nuanced debate to be had. For example, if this detail were available it would most likely show that the year-on-year contribution of students to ‘net’ migration in recent years to be minimal.

  • Jonathan Brown 14th Oct '15 - 11:42pm

    Excellent article Joyce – a whole raft of entirely sensible reasons why the bill is bad and should be thrown out, a clear liberal argument and several outline alternative proposals.

  • Agree.

  • suzanne fletcher 15th Oct '15 - 10:32am

    just to add that in addition to where jobs are, there is the housing supply to look at too. Maybe a lot of job opportunities in London but seems little affordable housing, On Teesside we have a lot more cheaper housing, which some think will be a factor for Syrians to move here once settled in UK. Not saying if good or bad – just another factor.

  • On spreading immigration. There are indeed no ways other than highly illiberal ones of forcing immigrants to go to particular areas. On the whole, for immigrants as opposed to asylum-seekers (who aren’t allowed to work), the market will do its work and people seeking work will go where there is demand for labour. Clearly few of the economic migrants clustered in the Fens doing back-breaking low-paid agricultural work are displacing British workers or denying young locals jobs they want. The sensible response to such concentrations is not to try to disperse them but to put money into supporting local authorities to deal with the costs and bring communities together. The benefits of these concentrations are, of course, felt mostly elsewhere in the shape of cheap food. There will also be concentrations in London, but London has always been like that, back to Roman times.

    There are two other groups. Skilled and/or highly educated people may find openings in many other places. But left alone, they’ll tend to congregate where others of their language and culture are. Some such clusters are quite surprising: for example, in North Tyneside there is a cluster of ethnic Chinese which is supposed to have happened because word got around about a sympathetic primary school. Such people can be encouraged to spread a bit by being given good information (“there’s a shortage of people with your qualifications in Nottingham”, say), or by a bit of help and welcome such as with that school.

    Asylum-seekers can be sent to particular places, but again, there’s a tendency to clustering. Again, this can be influenced by the welcome or hostility they encounter, but a degree of clustering is a good thing: an isolated, deeply unhappy person will get from others of his or her group personal support and information about laws and services. It’s easier for one school to respond to twenty Portuguese-speakers than for ten schools to respond to two each.

  • Roland

    “unfortunately the impression it gives is of additional complexity for no real gain but lots of additional effort and expenditure”

    The benefit would be for an employer (particularly those employing in areas like Science and Engineering) looking to start up in a region where a lower earning threshold has been granted, they would get to know that recruiting would be easier to recruit qualified (but inexperienced) trainees. It may seem minor but currently the minimum income requirements are skewed by earnings in London.

    SIMON BANKS

    “There are indeed no ways other than highly illiberal ones of forcing immigrants to go to particular areas.”

    That depends what you mean by “forcing.” Are you suggesting that the suggestion of granting visas for a region and taking action against employers who have employed people without a right to work in the region? If so I would say that depends on your comparison compared, if you are comparing to granting full national visas (which would have higher earning requirements) then yes but if compared with not granting visas then it is not.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Oct '15 - 2:57pm

    SIMON BANKS 15th Oct ’15 – 10:44am “There are indeed no ways other than highly illiberal ones of forcing immigrants to go to particular areas.” Is providing a roof over your head illiberal? even if it is part of an old tower block in Glasgow or Liverpool?
    ” … asylum-seekers (who aren’t allowed to work), … ” That is an absolute statement. What is the source of your information?
    “people seeking work will go where there is demand for labour” In part yes, but language is also an issue. Etnic Chinese escaping North Vietnam were spread out evenly, but tended to congregate where they could talk to each other, or via friends and family speaking the same language, even if unable to find paid employment.

  • The Hoa were mostly from the south. Many as refugees in Britain moved closer to their compatriots as they had difficulty in learning English and getting employment.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 16th Oct '15 - 11:55am

    Dear Joyce,

    An excellent article which has both highlighted some excellent points, and resulted in unvaleing some deeply worrying responses.

    It is interesting to know that although many of us with “foreign sounding names” are in fact second, third and increasingly fourth generation British citizens, we are are still considered by some as foreigners. So much for community cohesion, multi-culturalism and Britain’s entire history which is based on immigration. I speak with a terribly Home Counties accent, was formerly a police officer, even protected the Queen and numerous politicians, and I now lecture in a British university, so I ask, when will I be considered as not being a foreigner?

    I hope that the expressed comments were not reflective of ‘Little England’ beliefs which do exist in our Party as well, and it is such beliefs that cause many young BaME members of society to feel marginalised.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats

  • Lester Holloway 16th Oct '15 - 12:09pm

    The Runnymede Trust published an article on BAME people embracing their ‘foreign-sounding names’ http://www.racecard.org.uk/identity/what-does-your-name-mean-to-you/

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Matt (Bristol)
    Peter and Fiona - I think the chaotic possibilities of the coming election could include parties not being able to predict which seats fall to them, and non-exp...
  • Martin Bennett
    I certainly agree with William that we could and should be taking a stronger line on depleted services and yet worse public squalor as a result of a stagnation ...
  • David Symonds
    One of the key things that Conservatives and Labour like is negative campaigning. They prefer to throw mud at each other than tackle the problems the country is...
  • Denis Loretto
    May 2 is very important. It is crucial that maximum effort continues to be put into the local government campaign. In Westminster terms it is probably too late ...
  • Michael Cole
    "We need more than a change of government; we need a change in how we are governed." Yes, indeed. Electoral and constitutional reform is a vote winner. ...