There has been a change recently in New Zealand’s immigration law. Migrants must now earn at least $49,000 to be eligible for a skilled worker visa and people who are not considered as a skilled worker should be earning $35.24 or more per hour if they want to stay here. For Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, the tightening of immigration rules means helping other regions get the workers needed while sending fewer new arrivals to Auckland, a city with more than a million population. But what does it mean to our immigrants?

For any country in the world, one of the biggest concerns is the ageing population and how we take care of them. New Zealand is one of those countries who relies on immigrants to do aged care work so when Kaitaia aged care employee Juliet Garcia’s story was published on Thursday, 13 April in the NZ Herald, saying she’s been declined of a visa and was told by Immigration New Zealand that she only had 2 days to leave the country, we ask the question: why did this happen?

Was Mrs Garcia an overstayer or did she have a criminal record? Does she have some deep dark secret that she is hiding from everyone? No, Mrs Garcia has committed no crimes or has ever hurt anyone but instead, she has lived in New Zealand for ten years alongside her husband and worked for Switzer Residential Care in Kaitaia looking after the elderly. She has no complaints from her employee and she has qualifications. She has gained a Level 3 in National Certificate in Residential Care and is studying to get a Level 4 in Diversional Therapy training. For ten years, Mrs Garcia and her husband have renewed their work visa but without difficulty. Both have even paid for three-yearly health checks so why suddenly a 48-hour notice was given? Notice to leave the country.

The decision has angered Mrs Garcia’s employer, general manager Jackie Simkins ofSwitzer Home, who has petitioned for Immigration New Zealand to review their decision.

“Julie is a great employee. She’s reliable, kind to the residents, works her socks off – she is such an asset. She now has the skills and experience to work anywhere in the home, and to lead,” Mrs Simkins said.

The decision has caused Mrs Garcia and her husband an enormous stress.

“This is breaking my heart,” Mrs Garcia said. “We are good citizens. We work hard. We pay our taxes. We are not a burden on society. We are not animals – we are human beings.”

On top of this issue, Mrs Garcia’s older son is undergoing cancer treatment in the Philippines. Now with their work visa denied, it’s doubtful that Mrs Garcia and her husband can continue to fund the treatments their son needs.

As a product of immigration, I find stories like these deeply saddening and disturbing. The thought of being told to leave a country that I consider my home scares me. There are instances where people break the law and need to be removed from the country and surely Juliet Garcia is not one of them. In a time where terrorism is on the rise, every country needs to take a harder look at their borders to see who should be kept out for the safety of their citizens. However, our helpful immigrants should not be one of them. I hope this is not a goodbye to our harworking migrants.

Words by Kerry Lee. Photo from NZ Herald.