By ALAN PERROTT
After producing acceptable ID and demonstrating his fluency in English at a police checkpoint, 19-year-old Mua Strickson-Pua crept through the back streets of inner-city Auckland, praying no one would notice him.
Was he a criminal on the run or a young man with paranoid delusions?
Neither. He was simply a teenager heading into the city for a quiet pizza on a Friday night.
But this was 1976, at the height of the shameful dawn raids campaign.
Pacific Islanders were national pariahs, and a new word, "overstayer," had entered the lexicon.
"I remember having to creep around town for fear of being seen by the police and to avoid the taunts of Pakeha - 'Better get off the streets, boys, because the police are getting all your cousins.'
"I was sitting eating a pizza and I could hear some guys talking at the next table ... . They were talking about the dawn raids and saying they weren't that bad.
"I couldn't handle it, but I couldn't say anything. I didn't want to attract attention. I just got up and left."
These days the teenager has become the Rev Mua Strickson-Pua, chaplain of the Tagata Pasifika Resource Centre, and he is still angry about what was done to him, his family and his people.
He says his father, Sofi Pua, a Samoan elder and member of a Government liaison committee, even suffered regular abuse from the Prime Minister of the day, the late Sir Robert Muldoon.
His greatest fear now is that the whole sorry saga could be repeated when new immigration laws come into force on October 1.
While the Immigration Minister, Lianne Dalziel, has announced a one-off partial amnesty, those not eligible remain vulnerable to immediate, and if necessary forcible, deportation.
Those ejected will be denied re-entry for five years, a measure which will also see them barred from many other Commonwealth nations.
The amnesty applies only to those who arrived in New Zealand before last October and are considered to be "well settled," a new term.
The well-settled are defined as those who, as of last Monday, were married to or in a de facto relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident, or are the parent of a New Zealand-born child, or have been here at least five years.
The amnesty is expected to apply to about 6000 of the 20,700 overstayers estimated to be hiding out in New Zealand.
That leaves 14,700 facing instant deportation.
Immigration officers say the number has been swelled by the difficulty in tracking people down. Under the old laws, overstayers, once found and issued with removal orders, had 42 days to appeal.
But by the end of that time they might have disappeared again and the immigration officer was back to square one.
Mr Strickson-Pua appreciates the Labour-Alliance Coalition's efforts to soften legislation National passed and to make the process more streamlined, but says that some are questioning the motive behind the laws.
"The conspiracy theorists are having a field day. I know more extremist people are saying this is a good time to go Pacific bashing.
"The New Zealand dollar is down, productivity is down, the All Blacks are losing, and we keep hearing about abused children. We are even struggling at the Olympics.
"There is still a strong sense of betrayal over the raids. New Zealand is seen as a better place than Australia, it's the land of milk and honey and supposedly the least racist country in the world.
"The raids were a surprise and the generations still speak of it. We were given a chance at a new life, then it was taken away.
"It's like New Zealand saying you can only go so far."
Ms Dalziel has promised that there will be no return to dawn raids.
But those dealing with the laws have their doubts and say it could become a case of good intentions turning bad.
They point to a bureaucracy dealing with immigration which is already creaking under the pressure of applications.
The stress within the Pacific Island community has been at boiling point in the lead-up to October 1.
One sanctuary day, where people could check their residency status anonymously, attracted so many people to Manukau City Centre on September 2 that police forced the service to close.
In an effort to discourage a flood of residency applications, Ms Dalziel has given well-settled overstayers until March 30 to submit claims.
The problem worrying immigration lawyers is what happens during that six-month grace period.
Overstayers applying under the "well-settled" criteria already face a week of waiting for their application papers to arrive.
What happens if they are stopped by a police officer during that week or before March 30 because of a flat tyre or speeding and he checks their residency status?
And the Government has come under pressure from across the Tasman, where authorities say the new measures are too lenient and will provide a backdoor entry to Australia.
Lawyers are predicting a hard crackdown on known overstayers after October 1 to reassure out trans-tasman neighbours, and say it will not be pretty.
Olinda Woodroffe, a Samoan lawyer who has handled immigration cases in Auckland for 12 years, predicts that innocent people could end up spending a night in the cells because they are not carrying their marriage certificates, passports or children's birth certificates.
"Forget the dawn raids and police with dogs, this could be 24 hours a day with nothing more sinister than a single police officer and his breath tester. If you aren't carrying the right paperwork, it sounds to me like a night in the cells till you can prove yourself.
"Will the police have sufficient expertise in immigration law? They already have enough to do."
Mrs Woodroffe also doubts the Immigration Service's ability to cope over the next few months.
"They are already well behind with their work. I keep getting excuses with the cases I am working on ... In the meantime, these people could be forcibly deported."
Colin Amery, another immigration lawyer, believes the new legislation is discriminatory.
He says a significant number of Chinese who are in New Zealand through bogus immigration scams will fall through the holes of the new law.
Chinese newspapers ran ads for consultants guaranteeing a New Zealand work permit for anything from $3000 to $4000. Thousands took the chance, signed a form and off they flew.
Little did they know that the form they signed was an application for refugee status which grants applicants a two-year work visa.
Applicants for refugee status are excluded from the amnesty.
Even if they fulfil all the criteria, they face repatriation if their application is declined.
Mr Amery says this is an obvious inequity in the system and he does not accept Ms Dalziel's claim that a United Nations convention on refugees prevents the Government from including those seeking refugee status in the amnesty.
"I've looked closely at the convention and I can't see anything that excludes refugee applicants.
"Dawn raids weren't very nice. I'm just wondering what this is going to look like."
Tuariki Delamere, the former Minister of Immigration responsible for most of the incoming legislation, is now an immigration consultant specialising in Asian applications.
He says his Auckland office has been deluged with applications since the amnesty was announced.
"We got about 100 calls on Thursday. Only about two or three of them [the callers] qualified for residency. These people arrived thinking they had residency and now they are getting letters asking them to attend a hearing for a status they didn't know they had applied for.
"I'm thrilled for those in the Pacific Island community who can stay," says Mr Delamere, "but I'm mortified and very disappointed that an unintended outcome is that many equally deserving Asian overstayers may be sent back home."
In reply, Ms Dalziel says she is passionate about upholding refugee rights, but because some have abused the convention to gain access to New Zealand, she will review applications case by case.
"I have already considered over 2300 applications since becoming a minister."
Meanwhile, Mr Strickson-Pua is bracing himself for the October 1 deadline.
"I try very hard to maintain our oral history. The dawn raids are part of that history, so I tell the stories to my children because I don't want to see anything like that happen again.
"It wasn't a good process, I would like to think this one will be better. We'll have to see."
By ALAN PERROTT