This story in the Mail on Sunday is interesting, because I actually had a meeting with the Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, on the same topic last Tuesday. Also because it reflects the media's typically inconsistent approach towards immigration.
It's about a man who has lived in this country for 50 years, since he was three years old; has served in Northern Ireland as a Marine; has British parents; was a councillor, a policeman, a fireman and is now a nurse - but he's Canadian. Technically he's been here illegally and has been working illegally, although there's a rule that says if you've been here for 14 years illegally (and behaved yourself) you can apply for leave to remain and, eventually, citizenship. So he's not being kicked out, he can regularise his situation - but he has to pay £750 to do so and take the "Way of Life" citizenship test.
I've got a few cases like this at the moment. Typically they involve people from Jamaica, who came here on tourist visas decades ago and overstayed, or the children of such people (unlike in the USA, just being born in the UK doesn't automatically make you a British citizen). I've got one young woman who was born here, and is about to go to university to do an English language degree. It was only then that she discovered she wasn't a British citizen. She's got to pay two sets of fees, (levied on the basis that the process should be self-funding), adding up to over £1300, and take the test. So I raised this with Liam and he's going to see what can be done about it. Would be pretty stupid to put someone through an English language test when they're about to go off and get a degree in the subject!
More and more of these cases are coming to light as we're tightening up our border controls and immigration checks. (At which point I have to say to the PM - please don't promote Liam in the reshuffle, he's doing a phenomenal job at Immigration and we need him to stay there! But don't tell Liam I said that).
I'm seeing changes on a week by week basis - much quicker processing of applications, and definitely more deportations. For example, I'm noticing a number of cases where women are coming to see me with their young children; their partners are in jail, usually for drugs or violent offences, and are going to be deported at the end of their sentence because they're foreign nationals. This is difficult. It means the father will be separated from his child and partner. But on the other hand.... I hate the over-used phrase 'abused our hospitality', but I think most people would be of the view that we shouldn't be giving sympathetic treatment to drug-dealers, rapists and gangsters. And yet... shouldn't the child's need for a father be our priority? But then the mother and child could move abroad too (although they usually don't want to). And would he make much of a father anyway? Tricky decisions but the starting point is that if they've done the crime, they're out of here.
Anyway, the point I was making is that I'm seeing more of these cases because we've got our act together on foreign national prisoners. I'm also seeing more deportations of failed asylum seekers, some of which involve families with young kids, which again can be really difficult.
My last point though is about the way the media treat such cases. On the one hand the Mail on Sunday would be up in arms at any softening of immigration laws, and probably wouldn't have much sympathy for my Jamaican overstayers, even though some of them have been here 50 years too and have worked all their lives; they tend to be caretakers, porters, cleaners, not former Marines. But shouldn't the law apply equally to everyone? (Apart from those who really have 'abused our hospitality').