An Assumption of Criminality

“To me, it feels as if there is a presumption of criminality that I find offensive” – Richard Fabb

I was reading Richard Fabb’s article on Comment is Free about how the new spousal visa rules are effectively breaking up his family – and many others – when that phrase jumped out at me. It resonated. It sums up how it feels to rub up against the immigration system, whether as a tourist, a working migrant, a spouse or a student.

I was talking to my mum about my squeamishness at having to ask my friends to stand as guarantors for me for my application for citizenship. (to be fair, I hate asking for favours at the best of times. This just feels like the mother of all favours.) She laughed:

“Of course, it feels humiliating and embarrassing. That’s how they want you to feel. Don’t take it personally.”

It’s not just the UK. In this globalised world we live in, people are on the move, legally and illegally, on boats and planes and on foot. I’m not arguing for open borders, but when you start out with an assumption that everyone is a criminal, you continue to frame immigration (and emigration) as a problem from the outset, rather than a reality to be pragmatically managed. It also overlooks all the good that immigrants can and do bring, and the fact that yes, there is fraud, but you also can’t help falling in love with someone with the “wrong” passport or from a different country from you, a different race to you. It happens. Tearing apart families to target the few is just plain wrong but we keep doing this.

It’s the criminals, stupid. Target them, not us.

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