Monday, 29 June 2009

Obama regularisation a step closer

At least, that's the impression you get in a 26 June New York Times editorial entitled 'A way forward on immigration'. Highlights:

-- at a meeting with Pres. Obama last Thursday, congressmen of both main parties seemed to be in favour of a comprehensive reform bill to go through this year;

-- "It seems, at last, that Congress can reach solid agreement that immigration will not be fixed through enforcement and expulsion alone";

-- "Illegal immigration is wrong. The borders and workplace need tighter enforcement. Illegal immigrants must be required to register, learn English and pay taxes — or face deportation. But they should also be allowed to seek citizenship. The path back to a lawful system is through legalization and an improved, well-managed immigration flow. Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans accept these principles, and it’s possible to imagine Congress uniting around them, too."

-- There is a vigorous debate about future immigration flows. But at least it's a real debate, and not the "phony" one which the New York Times describes as turning on "the delusional belief that the mass deportations of 12 million people are realistic or desirable."

If only our press and politicians were capable of this sort of high-minded pragmatism. Instead Labour Party seems determined to see off the BNP by introducing a sort of "British housing for British (white) people" new principle.

It's downhill from here until the general election.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

'We were there': Salvationists on YouTube

A very fine short video recalling 4 May by the Salvation Army on YouTube containing moving comments by Col. Bill Cochrane, second in command of the Army in the UK. Hat tip again to tireless SiC supporter Capt. Nick Coke.

Lewisham Council backs SiC

Bernadette Farrell, lead organiser of South London Citizens, reports:

Unanimous vote from Lewisham Council last night in support of Strangers into Citizens. The motion was put forward by Steve Bullock (Elected Mayor/Council leader) with a splendid speech.
Does anyone have quotes from the speech -- or the speech itself? It would be nice to see it.

UK's top Conservative blogger backs SiC

I've only just been alerted to this post of 16 June by Tim Montgomerie at the much-read conservativehome site. His backing for Strangers into Citizens adds another significant voice to the growing chorus of support in the Conservative Party, along with Boris Johnson, John Bercow, Anthony Browne, Philip Blond, etc.

Montgomerie described how he was "instinctively against" regularisation until he read an article by Anthony Browne, Boris's policy man.

Browne set out the three options very clearly: We can oversee a massive deportation of illegal immigrants but "no country that sees itself as civilised wants to send immigration officials into schools, yanking distraught children away from their distressed classmates." There is also the stubborn fact that Britain has a very poor record at deporting large numbers. An estimated two-thirds of illegal immigrants have been here for more than five years. Do we really believe that that is going to change? We can accept the status quo where immigrants and their children live in a limbo land - half in the economy and half out. Or third we can offer immigrants an 'earned regularisation' if they haven't committed crimes.


I only support an amnesty as part of a comprehensive immigration policy. It will only work if we have effective border controls and, in a ideal world, that would mean a new deal with the EU so that Britain has full control of the numbers of people entering our country.

Both the Conservative and Labour frontbenches oppose an amnesty (the Liberal Democrats are supportive) but I've come to see earned regularisation as a humane policy. Today's LSE report suggests that it is economically beneficial too.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Regularisation is 'the civil rights issue of the 21st century'

... according to Will Sommerville, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC, in a thoughtful piece for the Guardian online.

The problem is what to do with the huge illegally resident population in the US, estimated at 12 million, or one in three of the total foreign-born population. (Compare this to the UK, where the estimate is closer to one in 10.) It is a forbiddingly complex policy problem, made even more so by the fact that most illegal immigrants are Hispanic and many live in "mixed-legal" households.

It may be counterintuitive, but the desire to see the problem fixed means people will accept a solution that includes regularisation. In fact, according to the campaigning organisation America's Voice, even swing voters favour comprehensive action on immigration over "enforcement-only" by a margin of 60 to 40.

In the end, though, the most compelling reason reform can succeed lies in the personality and huge ambition of the current White House. For many, and seemingly for the Obama team, immigration reform has become the civil rights issue for the 21st century. This is the prize that makes reform more likely than not, and sooner rather than later.

Monday, 22 June 2009

New Commons speaker backs SiC

The new speaker of the House of Commons, the Conservative MP John Bercow, is a longstanding supporter of Strangers into Citizens. He is one of the first signatories of the early day motion.

Obama lays out regularisation proposal

The US President has laid out what is expected to be the framework of his comprehensive immigration reform -- including regularisation -- at a Hispanic prayer breakfast. Full remarks here. Money quote:
The American people -- the American people believe in immigration, but they also believe that we can't tolerate a situation where people come to the United States in violation of the law, nor can we tolerate employers who exploit undocumented workers in order to drive down wages. That's why we're taking steps to strengthen border security, and we must build on those efforts. We must also clarify the status of millions who are here illegally, many who have put down roots. For those who wish to become citizens, we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line behind those who played by the rules. That is the fair, practical, and promising way forward, and that's what I'm committed to passing as President of the United States.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

SiC debated on BBC1 on two Sunday programmes

Following the release of the LSE report last Tuesday commissioned by the mayor, regularisation was debated on two BBC1 programmes Sunday.

First was the Big Questions, which you can watch here for the next seven days. The panel -- Germaine Greer, Fareena Alam and Anne Atkins -- is mostly in favour, as is the studio audience. Neil Jameson, lead organiser of London Citizens, represents Strangers into Citizens, along with an irregular Malaysian migrant called Dee who is a friend of the campaign. The discussion lasts 23 minutes.

Second was the Politics Show: click here (for the next seven days only) to watch Austen Ivereigh, SiC policy director, debate the issue with Gareth Bacon, GLA Assembly member. A brief report starts at 0.43 minutes into the programme; the 5-minute debate begins at 0.45.

Friday, 19 June 2009

US Catholic bishops call for regularisation

In the United States, where the Catholic Church has long been in favour of regularisation, the bishops have made a statement calling on President Obama to do what President Obama has already said he wants to so -- namely, comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway into citizenship for long-term undocumented migrants. In the US the irregular population is 12 million -- rather more than the UK's 725,000 (according to the recent LSE estimate). Here's the key bit of the bishops' beautiful statement, which you can read in full here.

It has been clear for years that the United States immigration system requires repair and that reform legislation should not be delayed.

We urge respect and observance of all just laws, and we do not approve or encourage the illegal entry of anyone into our country. From a humanitarian perspective, however, our fellow human beings, who migrate to support their families, continue to suffer at the hands of immigration policies that separate them from family members and drive them into remote parts of the American desert, sometimes to their deaths. This suffering should not continue.

Now is the time to address this pressing humanitarian issue which affects so many lives and undermines basic human dignity. Our society should no longer tolerate a status quo that perpetuates a permanent underclass of persons and benefits from their labor without offering them legal protections. As a moral matter, we must resolve the legal status of those who are here without proper documentation so that they can fully contribute their talents to our nation’s economic, social and spiritual well being.

Only through comprehensive reform can we restore the rule of law to our nation’s immigration system.

We urge President Obama and congressional leaders to meet as soon as possible to discuss and draft comprehensive immigration reform legislation, with the goal of making it law by the end of 2009. The Catholic bishops of our country stand ready to assist in this effort.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Some quotes being carried at MayorWatch in response to the LSE report:

London Assembly Chair Darren Johnson AM said the report “lends further economic weight to the argument in favour of regularising the status of hundreds of thousands of Londoners who are already making a significant contribution to the capital’s wealth.”

Mr Johnson added: “In the midst of a recession it would be tantamount to negligence to ignore the potential to add £3 billion per annum to UK GDP by introducing a limited and earned amnesty for hard working migrants who demonstrate a commitment to contributing fully to our society.”

In a statement issued on Monday, the Mayor [also called Johnson] said the report “has introduced some long overdue facts, hard evidence and academic rigour into a debate which has far too often been dominated by myth, anecdote and hearsay.”

“So far from a financial burden, as some suggest, this new research has found an amnesty could be worth up to £3 billion a year to the country’s economy.”

“The study also demolishes the argument that an amnesty would inevitably lead to increased migration to the UK and identifies effective border controls as the vital factor in controlling and deterring illegal immigration.”

The Londonist

The web-based newspaper summarises the report.

There are an estimated 618,000 illegal immigrants in the UK, 442,000 of whom live in London. Under the proposed scheme, immigrants who've been in Britain for five years and have no serious criminal record would become legal citizens as part of a one-off amnesty. The people who do the figures on these things reckon about two-thirds of the total would be eligible.

And just to really stick the boot of common sense and decency into those who declare the UK is "full", the legal immigrants would be paying around £846m a year in taxes, as opposed to the short-term costs of £410m a year to the public purse. Longer term, economists think costs would be around £1bn a year but annual GDP would be boosted by £3bn. Surely that's good financial planning in anyone's books?

Read the LSE report

You can read and download the full LSE report into the economic costs and benefits of regularisation here, in both full and summary forms.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Boris attacked in the Mail (again)

As an example of fantastically biased journalism, the Daily Mail's article today headlined 'Senior Tories rubbish Boris Johnson's proposal to allow illegal immigrants to work in UK' can hardly be improved on.

Rather than inform us that Boris commissioned the report from the LSE, it tries to claim (initially, anyway) that the mayor himself published the report. Presumably this is because not even the Mail can pretend the LSE is not one of the country's most respectable academic institutions.

And rather than tell the reader what the report actually says, it repeats the MigrationWatch canards that it would be expensive and unpopular.

It's important to remember that the Mail is a carefully packaged product which attempts to reinforce the prejudices of its readers. It is not, in that sense, journalism at all.

Cleaning industry association applauds LSE report

Over at the Cleaning and Support Services Association (CSSA), which has been consistently supportive of SiC, Andrew Large welcomes today's LSE report.
“The current right to work system imposes serious costs on cleaning businesses, which are essentially being asked to act as unpaid immigration officials. The large numbers of irregular workers are vulnerable to being employed on low wages and in poor conditions, which drags down the rest of the economy. Regularisation is a credible policy response to the current problem of irregular residents in the UK and it should be pursued.”

LSE report out! SiC proposal would bring in £3bn!

Austen writes:

We've won the humanitarian and moral argument. Now we can safely say there's an economic case, too, for regularisation.

So says the London School of Economics, which this morning released their final report following months of research commissioned by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson -- see Guardian report here -- which says, in effect, that regularisation on the model proposed by SiC and backed by the mayor would bring £3bn into the economy and benefit about two-thirds of the 725,000 irregular migrants in the country. It also scotches the notion that the move would have a "green light" effect on illegal immigration.

The LSE's long-awaited research is one of the ways in which the mayor has made good his pledge his support for Strangers into Citizens at the London Citizens mayoral assembly of April 2009 -- something which Dave Hill, the Guardian blogger, who was sitting in front of me at City Hall this morning, recalls in his post here. "You're very good at getting what you want," Hill turned and told me -- meaning London Citizens, of course.

As well as the Guardian here there's the BBC report here, Telegraph here, Financial Times here, and Ekklesia here.

Beng pro-life = immigration reform

So says Archbishop Chaput of Denver, bless him. Catholics, take note.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Research helps

Rahila Gupta of Southall Black Sisters writes in the Guardian's Comment is Free section in favour of regularisation -- but she worries about SiC's proposal:
[H]ow can potential beneficiaries of the amnesty present employer references? When employers are being fined for employing migrants without papers, which employer is going to put his or her neck on the line to give a reference for someone who was employed "illegally"? The real danger of a conditional amnesty, reasonable though it appears, is that it will bring hopefuls out into the open and those who do not qualify will be deported.
Shame Gupta hadn't read Austen Ivereigh's piece in the Morning Star before writing hers. He answered the question of whether those applying would be guaranteed protection from deportation.

The answer is yes. The Home Office would announce a new regulation - no new legislation is needed - with the criteria. Anyone resident for more than four years who entered the country legally could apply for the two-year work permit with a commitment that, if they continue to fulfil the criteria at the end of those two years, they would be given leave to remain. The two-year work permit would free people from unscrupulous employers as a first step. It would also enable churches, mosques and unions to assist those migrants in learning English, helping them to integrate as legal citizens and providing the positive references at the end of the process.
Austen's article also answers her other objections: that the timescale is arbitrary, and that applicants would be unable to present employer references. Shame she didn't read it.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

'We were there': the Anglican Franciscans

Members of the Society of St Francis (SSF) recall 4 May on their website:
Migrants to our country have long been on the edge of society, and often work for less than the minimum wage. SSF has long befriended them. In Plaistow and Hilfield we have room for one or two men in such a situation - some who have lived here for over 14 years, but with no right to work, or claim state benefits. They have blessed our communities in many ways, both in work and worship.

Brothers have been supporting the Strangers into Citizens campaign which calls for these long term migrants to be allowed to become citizens, and have attended the annual May Day rally for several years.

Yesterday, Bank Holiday Monday, Br Hugh SSF and Caroline Ugbo TO attended the service in St Margaret’s (next to Westminster Abbey) with a wonderful choir from Zimbabwe. Others attended Mass in the RC Cathedral or Muslim worship, before processing up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where Vaughan, a postulant, and Tobias, a volunteer at Hilfield, joined them. It was a very well organised and festive day, a celebration more than a demonstration, as is to be expected from everything organised by London Citizens, the UK’s largest civic alliance. The parish in Plaistow in which the brothers are involved is a London Citizens founding parish.

It was great to be surrounded by people from all over the world, most living in London but with delegations from Birmingham and beyond. We heard Imams, MPs, Bishops and representatives from many countries – all calling for an earned amnesty for those who speak English and who have been here for at least 6 years.

Friday, 5 June 2009

New home secretary supports Strangers into Citizens

Alan Johnson was one of three candidates to the deputy Labour leadership back in July 2007 to back the campaign. Report here.