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While Paul Henry has been in the spotlight, some may have missed this worrying story that reveals the National government not only showing a lack of human decency, but about to break the law and international agreements in their eagerness to look as though they are taking a tough stance on overstayers.

The Government’s position is to show discretion, not be bound by law but guided by it. In this instance, two overstayers – who have openly been trying to get residency and have been NZers for 11 years and never went into hiding or tried to cheat the system – are about to be deported. However their three children are NZ citizens. Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson has not stepped in to show leniency, despite her position giving her the legal ability to do so.

The problem with this deportation is that the family will be moving from a good life in NZ to abject poverty in India. We have treaty agreements and a 2008 legal precedent that makes what Immigration and National are planning to do, essentially, illegal.

I’m not proposing that we should not deport overstayers, but I am saying that governments and their agencies need to show compassion and discretion. It is not enough to try and hide behind the letter of the law, and the courts agree with me.

The point of law is to guide, protect and advise. We are not meant to be able to say “I want to help, but the law is the law.”

Most judges in NZ rule based as much on the spirit of the law as the letter. This is why we have appeal processes and ministers have the legal ability to show leniency.

Taking a hard-nosed stance is about picking the right fights. In this instance the spirit of the law is that this family should not be deported. The courts have already ruled regarding this and National is choosing to make an example of this family as if they are nothing more than points on a score board.

But they aren’t. They are human beings whose lives are about to be ruined by National’s naive idea that running a county is like running an accounting sheet.

It is not. Effective running of a country requires compassion, reason, wisdom and humanity. Your decisions should not be run as a scoring in a game, nor should they be decided by a profit margin. Governmental decisions should be guided by thinking about people first and foremost. All the people.

If National let’s this happen, they will have shown that as a government in total they are unfit to make decisions for this country’s best interests. I, for one, do not want NZ to be known as the country that said to a family “either say good bye to your children or force them to live in abject poverty.”

John Key may as well grow a moustache and practice twirling it at press conferences if he wants to countinue down this route.

October 2010

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