The response of three Kiwi-Indian MPs on the recently announced changes in parent category visas is at best, short of community expectations.
The community outrage against the changes in parent visa category that has pushed the chances of bringing parents beyond the reach of ordinary hard-working migrants continues unabated, often erupting selectively at different platforms, including on social media, various community events, and even in the form of protests at the Auckland Diwali Festival at the Aotea Square.
In this regard, one of the most striking phenomenon, and felt unanimously by one and all has been the failure of our Kiwi-Indian MPs in fronting up and engaging with the community.
Their collective silence, or absence of promptness in relaying the community’s expectations to their respective political parties, has been deafening, and most strongly felt on the social media.
The Indian Weekender reached out to Labour's Priyanca Radhakrishnan and National's Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and Dr Parmjeet Parmar to get to know their individual positions, on the changes in parent visa category and what they have been doing to change the new rulings.
While balancing Political Party's broader agendas, and managing community's expectations, is not always easy, especially for the List MPs, who often are seen more accountable to the Party than their electorates, the three Kiwi-Indian MPs can be seen being a little bit further disconnected with the communities in this regard.
All three MPs side-stepped questions posed to them directly, choosing to respond in a manner that largely reflected their Party's standard spin on the parent visa category changes.
Continuing govt's spin on new changes
Labour's Priyanca Radhakrishnan when posed with query if she thought that the majority of Kiwi-Indian community members would have the eligibility (based on their salaries) to bring along their parents if they wish to, responded with standard answer, "The reopening of the parent category has been tightened, and I know some people are disappointed and I can understand this.
"The Parent Category Visa has always had financial criteria attached to it. The reopened category matches the financial thresholds for sponsorship with our new skilled migrant category income threshold," Mrs Radhakrishnan said.
However, she did not clarify further on how the skilled migrant category income threshold, which at maximum is $78,000 per annum, matches up with the minimum salary requirement of $106,000 for sponsoring one parent.
This requirement further goes-up to whopping $159,000, if the migrant worker wants to bring both parents.
Mrs Radhakrishnan also refused the suggestions that the new changes were elitist in nature by only allowing a rich few to bring their parents, and instead sought to put forward the point that reopening of the visa category was a step forward from the current temporary suspension, thus putting many lives in limbo.
"While the income thresholds are higher than they have been in the past, it is important to note that the category is now at least opened after being closed by the previous National government – this represents progress," Mrs Radhakrishan asserted.
"The Parent Category was closed by the previous government in 2016 and this left people in a lot of uncertainty. This government, under the leadership of the PM Jacinda Ardern and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, decided to reopen the category to give people some clarity after they were left in limbo by the previous government," Mrs Radhakrisnan said.
Again, Mrs Radhakrishan reflected Party's standard response than representing community's aspirations, as the only people who were in any kind of limbo were the people who had already applied under the previous rules (which although temporarily suspended but was still accepting fresh applications) and the government chose to change the goal-post for them completely, without any special consideration.
For the rest of the people, who were just not there yet, or working towards the stage where they could have brought their parents if they wished to, the goal post has been changed unrealistically.
Projecting National's twisted spin on the parent visa category
In general, any Opposition Party has a free run in criticising every government policy and promises the affected electorate anything and everything under the sun, the National Party had been stunningly silent and non-committal about the changes in parent visa category.
Surprisingly though, in the span of the next few days, National was hyper-critical of coalition government's another immigration-related discretional decision, of granting residency to a convicted drunk driver.
While the broader understanding in the Kiwi-Indian community is that National Party has been at best silent, the Kiwi-Indian MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi thinks otherwise and told The Indian Weekender, "We have responded and I have been interviewed many times on the changes to the Parent visa."
On being queried what is National Party's stand on the new salary bracket introduced in the parent category visa requiring whopping $159,000 - $212,000 to be eligible to bring their parents, Mr Bakshi said conservatively, "We wouldn't have introduced the increase."
Meanwhile, National's both Kiwi-Indian MPs, Dr Parmjeet Parmar and Mr Bakshi reiterated the Party's new spin on parent category visa, "The parent category was only meant to be temporarily suspended so that a backlog of applications that had built up could be cleared and the policy was to be reviewed in two years' time."
Either way, the intent of all three Kiwi-Indian MPs seems to be of advancing Party's agendas rather than being on the community’s side.