Not government policy about Immigration, and all that entails, but the Department itself, the workplace I spent 15 years of my working life in, the Department in which I developed as an individual, learnt a lot of interesting and worthwhile things, and made a great number of friends.
Because when Immigration is demonised, I was demonised, my colleagues were demonised, and really it was rather shit. So why not demonise an entire Department of people? So glad you asked…
Immigration as an institution of people was significantly less racist than general society, and was one of the more diverse government departments (according to data I read from somewhere when I was there). It was important in Immigration as to where our clients came from, because then we could assist with interpreters, etc, but otherwise their origin was unimportant overall. Yes the world was divided into non-citizens, and Australian residents and citizens, but that was the nature of the job. The world was not divided into white and non-white, but along lines of visa eligibility (for example some nations could obtain Electronic Travel Authorities – which are a simple visitor visa to Australia, and others could not. Again not based on white or non-white lines).
When it comes down to it, the people you’d want to be working with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, are the ones that actually are. Many of my colleagues were left-leaning, socialist, caring souls who wanted the best outcome for the client. They were satisfied that, for the most part, if they made a mistake, or if a client’s situation changed, there were review mechanisms in place to look at the case again.
Let’s use an example. I had a group of clients from Kazakhstan apply for Protection Visas. Based on the country information at that time, I refused their applications as they did not meet the definition of a refugee as outlined by the United Nations Convention on Refugees. Between the time I decided their application and the time their review was finalised the situation in Kazakhstan had changed dramatically, meaning that some of them were found to be refugees.
That safety net, the ability to know that the decision I made would be (most times if rejected) reviewed made my job easier. Things which didn’t make my job easier were being demonised for working for Immigration; dealing with stories of torture, trauma, rape, and loss; a department that was becoming increasingly risk averse; and my own lack of good judgement about how many extra-curricular roles I could take on as well as my full time job.
The people who work at Immigration are great people doing a difficult job. Like all Government departments and agencies, their role is to implement Government policy. Believe me, when they don’t agree with that policy, they let those who need to know, know. My former colleagues are a rather bolshy lot and will speak up and explain exactly why X or Y is a bad idea. Whether they are listened to is a different issue of course. A number of times when I was still working for Immigration draft policy was sent for comment, and we were given the opportunity to shred it, which if it needed to be, we would. Our comments were often taken into account, and I know of several occasions where policy was withdrawn on the basis of the comments that were made.
Disagreeing with Government policy is all well and good, disagreeing with individual visa decisions is also fine, slamming an entire organisation because of Government policy or a visa decision – not so good. Really, with all Government departments, you want the best people possible to work there. The salary is not great, though in many cases the conditions are, and the people there are attempting to provide good outcomes for people. Suggesting that all Immigration employees are facists, racists, or any other epithet you think is a great one to hurl at Immigration hurts those that work there, and does nothing to change Government policy.
If you don’t like the policy of the Government of the day, talk to them, get a lobby group together, write to your local MP, attend meetings and forums where you can be heard, but don’t demonise those who are doing their jobs and who actually want the best outcome for their clients.