Deported parents' terrible choice

MOTHER'S ANGUISH: Usha Ram with her children, from left, Hemani, 8, and twins Gagan and Gaurav, 6, as she contemplates leaving them in New Zealand rather than take them back to the slums of India.
DIANE JOYCE
MOTHER'S ANGUISH: Usha Ram with her children, from left, Hemani, 8, and twins Gagan and Gaurav, 6, as she contemplates leaving them in New Zealand rather than take them back to the slums of India.

Tears stream down Usha Ram's face as she faces a heartbreaking decision – take her children back to live in a slum in India, or leave them behind in Hawke's Bay in the hope that they get a better life.

Mrs Ram, 32, and husband Sital, 40, found out yesterday that they are to be deported to India, with or without children Hemani, 8, and twin boys Gaurav and Gagan, 6, who were born in New Zealand and are Kiwi citizens.

"I love my children, so so much, but what do I do? What would you do?" she said.

"I can't take them to where there is nothing. I don't want to leave them but they are New Zealanders and would get a better life here."

They are likely to return to Jalandhar, in Punjab, and because her family was in the Dalit (untouchable) caste, she said they would have to live in a slum.

Because her children were born in New Zealand, they were not entitled to Indian citizenship and so would have no access to health care or education.

She wants to plead with Prime Minister John Key to intercede on her children's behalf.

Immigration New Zealand gave Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson's decision to the Ram family yesterday. The couple have lived in Hawke's Bay for nearly 11 years, seven of them as overstayers.

Mrs Ram said they had never hidden from Immigration. The children went to kindergarten and school, and the family had dealt with Immigration and Inland Revenue over the years.

The children hold New Zealand citizenship through being born here before 2006. Since then, children have to have a New Zealand citizen parent to get citizenship.

TDA Immigration, the company representing the family, said the minister's decision went against court decisions on similar cases.

In a 2008 finding, Justice Susan Glazebrook said a citizen had a "cardinal and absolute right of residence" and that a comparison had to be made between the child's living conditions in New Zealand and what they were likely to encounter once deported.

In another finding, she said serious detriment to the citizen child could be sufficient to outweigh the right of New Zealand to protect its borders, allowing an overstayer parent to remain in New Zealand to care for the child.

And in 2007, while in opposition, National immigration spokesman Lockwood Smith said it was "crazy" that the rights of New Zealand-born children were not taken into account in such cases, and common sense should see parents allowed to stay "in genuine cases".

TDA Immigration consultant Tuariki Delamere – a former NZ First MP and immigration minister – said India did not allow dual citizenship, and New Zealand did not allow children to renounce their New Zealand citizenship until they reached 18.

"It is ridiculous, and shows a complete lack of common sense. There are heaps of humanitarian grounds for allowing them to stay, and no public interest against allowing them to stay."

The parents would be deported as soon as travel documents were prepared, in about two weeks.

A spokesman for Ms Wilkinson said she did not comment on individual cases.

The Dominion Post