Is it too much to expect Immigration NZ to display some common sense? Apparently it is. Ask Kaitaia couple Juliet and Eric Garcia.
They arrived in Kaitaia from the Philippines in 2007. Since then both have been employed fulltime, she as an increasingly qualified health care assistant and diversional therapist at Switzer Residential Care, he at a supermarket and latterly with a local builder.
Both have proved to be exemplary employees, Mrs Garcia in a field in which Switzer has long had, and continues to have, extreme difficulty recruiting.
'If this Government is genuinely working in the best interests of people and communities, it will rescind Immigration's decision to deport this couple.'
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Last year the couple were given 48 hours' notice that they had to leave, or face deportation. That crisis was staved off with an urgent appeal, but now, after apparently long consideration, Immigration has declared once again that they have to go.
If this is unfair for a couple who have worked hard to be good citizens, who contribute to their community, who pay tax, and, in Mrs Garcia's case, do work that no one else wants to do, it is devastating for her employer.
The Switzer Trust has complied with every legal requirement, including repeatedly advertising for a New Zealander to take her position, and has repeatedly failed to find one.
Immigration's less than helpful response last year was to say that no New Zealander would work for what Mrs Garcia was being paid. That tells you something about the people who made the decision to evict her.
Salary does have something to do with it — the Government has once again shifted the goal posts, so that a qualification level, and annual income, that a year ago would have been sufficient to qualify her for residence, no longer do so.
The fact remains, however, that she is highly qualified in a field in which, not only in Kaitaia, employers have great difficulty recruiting staff of any acceptable calibre, let alone who are keen, conscientious, loyal, reliable, and have proved their ability and willingness to gain qualifications.
Mrs Garcia is healthy. We know this, because every three years she has to had to fork out $500 for a comprehensive examination. There is no language barrier.
We know this because she has passed the mandatory test, required by the bureaucracy despite the fact that she has gained complex qualifications via examinations that she sat in English.
So what's the problem? Unelected civil servants who make arbitrary decisions that take no account of individuals as human beings, and who have no knowledge of, or don't care about the difficulties that those decisions create for employers.
There is a simple fix. Associate Immirgation Minister Kris Faafoi could intervene, if he wanted to. Problem is, he doesn't, for reasons that pass all understanding.
This is not a situation that calls for compassion, but intelligence. Juliet Garcia is not one of those would-be immigrants who falls woefully short of the required standard but desperately wants to stay here for humanitarian reasons. Over more than a decade she has proved her value to her community, and particularly to her employer.
She is doing skilled work in a sector that is finding it increasingly difficult to care for a growing number of elderly, in a community where the options for care are extremely limited.
Surely Mr Faafoi knows this. He should. It is no exaggeration to say that without Mrs Garcia, Switzer will struggle to provide the care needed by its most vulnerable residents. The only realistic hope of replacing her will be to recruit another immigrant, presumably only to go through this ridiculous rigmarole once again at some point in the future.
This from a government that has said time and again that it cares about people. A government that is not fixated with balance sheets. A government that swears it is doing what is best for the people it serves. The joke, it seems, is on us.
Immigration, and the minister, can't claim that they are unaware of the ramifications of the decision to evict the Garcias. The Claud Switzer Memorial Trust has gone to great lengths to explain why it cannot afford to lose this woman.
It has explained, many times, that compliance with the requirement to advertise her position by every means possible on an annual basis has failed to produce a New Zealander who can or wants to do the job.
Juliet Garcia is probably as close as anyone can get to being indispensable, in a community that often has difficulty recruiting skilled staff for reasons that this Government is well aware of. None of that has had any impact whatsoever. The rules, it seems, are the rules. And they keep changing.
Qualify and you can stay, Immigration said in 2016. Qualify she did. And now she has to go.
It's not as though Mrs Garcia and the trust have not had support. Northland MP Matt King was the most recent to appeal on her behalf, to no avail. Despite his best efforts he could not persuade Mr Faafoi to intervene. Unless the minister changed his mind, Mr King said last week, he feared that Mrs Garcia was "pretty much buggered".
Well done Mr Faafoi.
We're not entirely out of options though. The next step will be to appeal to Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis. He, surely, can be relied upon to take a more intelligent and empathic view. Kaitaia, after all, is his home town. He knows Switzer Residential Care.
He must be keenly aware of the need to provide the best of care for the frail elderly, and of the constant challenge the trust faces in delivering that care.
Mr Davis might well be Juliet Garcia's last hope, although the omens aren't especially flash. The trust has already appealed to him, and as of last week had received no more than an acknowledgement that its message had been received.
Hopefully Mr Davis can give the issue the urgency it demands. Maybe he can enlighten Mr Faafoi. Maybe he could offer to bring the minister home one weekend to go fishing, and call in at Switzer on the way past to get a first-hand idea of its recruiting problems.
Maybe he could encourage Mr Faafoi to have a quiet word with Health Minister David Clark, who hopefully has a better grasp of the challenges facing the aged care sector.
Between them, maybe Mr Davis and Mr Clark could help Mr Faafoi understand that the decision to evict the Garcias, and his refusal to intervene, is not only wrong, but dumb.
Perhaps it would be different if Mrs Garcia was a recent arrival, but she isn't. She has been here, doing a very good job in a very demanding field, for 11 years. Throughout that time Immigration has accepted that she has not been keeping a New Zealander out of a job.
She still isn't. She and her husband are not appealing for residence on the basis of promises yet to be kept. They have done all that could possibly have been asked of them to prove that they are the sort of people this country, and the Far North more than most, desperately needs.
To be told now, 11 years on, that they are not required, and worse, not welcome, is a travesty.
If this Government is genuinely working in the best interests of people and communities, it will rescind Immigration's decision to deport this couple. It can do that with the stroke of a pen, and with no fear of criticism from any quarter. That it refuses to do so, with all the information that has been provided, is inexplicable and indefensible.