tinimbang ka ngunit kulang (so close and yet so far): the curious case of kabayan Juliet Garcia


kabayan Juliet Garcia doing the work she loves with Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater. thanks and acknowledgment to Northland Age!

(Note : To fellow Filipinos and Tagalog speakers, I agree in advance that the English translation of the initial title isn’t that accurate, yet for my purposes it’s quite apt. Bear with me please, or better yet give me a better title. Medyo mahaba po ang blog. Thank you for reading!)

WHAT IF? You spent your best 10 years (no, 11!!) working as a guest worker in New Zealand…

WHAT IF? You worked, not just in an industry where migrant workers were sorely needed (the medical and allied services industry), but in a region where no locals and New Zealanders would work, outside the comforts of the major urban centers…

WHAT IF? You were appreciated not only by your employer in that place of work but by those you cared for everyday, as if they were your loved ones and cherished members of your family, not just for the wages and remuneration (which isn’t that much by the way) but because you had grown to love them, out of love for your fellow man, and love for your profession…

WHAT IF? Despite the strict immigration and labor laws you persevered, patiently building up your skill level to the point where at least, you had a fighting chance to stay in New Zealand permanently, in New Zealand where, after all, you paid your dues, never mind the blood sweat and tears you could have paid anywhere else…

WHAT IF? Despite all these what ifs, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends, Romans and countrymen, the benefit that you prized most of all, the right to stay permanently in the country you served so well, was cruelly denied you?

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If it sounds too improbable, too unfair to be true, then truth might as well be stranger than fiction Precious Reader, because in a nutshell it is what happened to Pinay countryman (woman) Juliet Garcia:

The Radio NZ website tells the short, sad story best, so we’ll quote it directly (everything in bold font):

“Ms Garcia qualified in dementia care and diversional therapy in 2017 to gain enough points to apply for a residence visa as a skilled migrant.

However, she said changes to the immigration rules that took effect last August meant she no longer had the points needed to apply for residence when her work visa runs out in mid-2019.

Under the new system, which limits some migrant workers to three years in New Zealand, she was uncertain that even her work visa would be renewed.

“I used to have points [towards residence] for ten years for work experience here and having a sister in Auckland. But I’ve lost those points under the new rules, and I don’t know if I can keep facing the stress of not knowing every year if I can stay, and the expense of applying,” she said.

If you think kabayan Juliet is on her own trying to stay here, she’s not. Her employer practically loves her, as Radio NZ continues:

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) has been required by Immigration NZ to advertise Mrs Garcia’s job every year, but has never found a New Zealander to replace her.

“We have advertised locally and nationally at considerable expense. We’ve had it on Facebook, on TradeMe we had about 360 hits and that came down to three applications,” Mrs Simkins said.

“Two pulled out and the last person standing from that very expensive advertising session was not qualified.”

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) had appealed to the Immigration and Health Ministers to review Mrs Garcia’s case and let her stay but to no avail, she said.

Far North mayor John Carter said Mrs Garcia was the sort of immigrant the district needed and Immigration’s stance was inexplicable.

“She’s done a tremendous amount to get qualified; she’s done all the things that this nation has asked of her, that the Switzer Home has asked of her, that the community has asked of her and now when it comes to the last hurdle we’re getting this negativity.

“We need people like Juliet and her husband who [are] contributing to the economy and the community up here as well. They are good people,” Mr Carter said.

Northland District Health Board chair Sally Macauley also believed Mrs Garcia should stay.

“It is hard in the north to obtain such professionalism as I know Juliet has,” Mrs Macauley said.

“She is one of a class of caregivers that we find difficult to retain. She has been with us since 2007; she’s loved by everyone at the Switzer and works extremely hard.”

Both the DHB chair and Far North mayor have asked the Ministers of Health and Immigration to look into Mrs Garcia’s case for residence.

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So Juliet ticks all the boxes. No one likes her job, but she does. She’s in a job that’s always in demand because there aren’t enough New Zealanders to fill it. And on the surface she earns enough to be considered highly skilled in this country. No problem diba?

But wait. On the points-based system (effective August 2017) under which enough points earns you the right to be considered for permanent residence, which with all the attendant benefits is the ultimate prize for all migrant workers in New Zealand, the rules recently changed.

To make it worse, she upskilled and retrained in order to raise her skill level, only to be tripped up by the same set of new rules that declared her 10 years work experience useless (for purposes of residence application) as it was no longer “skilled enough.”

According to Juliet herself (above) the NZ work experience and having relatives in New Zealand used to count for points towards literally reaching the promised land. But these were recently taken away.

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Kabayan immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede who has taken up the fight on Juliet’s behalf, is baffled by the lack of practicality and compassion shown by the traditionally labor- and migrant-friendly Labour Government.

Again lets give a kabayan the floor, courtesy of her FB page:

we only asked (in Juliet’s residency application) for one requirement to be waived. The rest of the requirements could still be tested under the current immigration policy.

(Because of a technicality) It is disappointing that people like Juliet who spent more than years of her life working here can no longer claim for the number of years of work experience under the skilled migrant category because of new rules.

Abogado de campanilla Maricel has given her free time, expertise, and goodwill, even the audacity to go all the way to the current Labor Government (represented by its Ministers for Immigration and Health) to knock some sense and compassion into the powers-that-be.

But even then, it might not be enough.

It’s truly heartbreaking to know that many other migrants in our major NZ urban centers work jobs that utterly fail the logic of skills shortage, essential skills and contribution visas, and yet kabayan like Juliet are desperately needed, work wholeheartedly  in the heartland of Aotearoa, never think of working anywhere else, and yet fall short of the requirements of a full welcome.

Tinimbang ka, ngunit kulang.

Let’s not give up the fight for Juliet Garcia.

For we are Juliet Garcia, and Juliet Garcia is us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

6 thoughts on “tinimbang ka ngunit kulang (so close and yet so far): the curious case of kabayan Juliet Garcia

  1. Thank you Noel for your insightful article about Juliet Garcia. Lets continue to be vocal of her flight and about her fight. They deserve to stay, work and permanently live in New Zealand…they are more than qualified than those who tricked the immigration…those who twicked their credentials and papers just to justify and legally stay kand those thick faced migrants and refugee that are continuing to milk the NZ government for Support…
    Those who instead of contributing to the the copper are just waiting for our tax to drip on their bank…oh my papa..where is the justice…?!
    Julie has –Diversional Therapy Qualification NZQA Level4
    -Julie has sister in NZ
    -Julie has supportive employer
    -Julie is love and respected in her work and community
    -Julie is Paying tax for 11 years
    -Julie is living outside Auckland
    -Julie earns $24.50
    -Julie is a Filipino
    -Julie is worth fighting for

    Julie and her husband deserve to stay…!period…

    ..

  2. My heart goes out to Juliet. That is the plight of many, if not all, migrant workers. They take the jobs that none of the locals want to do, work for less than what they would pay the local worker and yet are not treated as valuable contributors to the adopted country’s economy and development. They are resented by the local population for “stealing” the jobs they didn’t want in the first place. I hope Juliet finds good advocates who will help her get the status she deserves.

    • Thank you and salamat cjabier2014. Truly, the migrant experience here funds parallel in Canada, US and the rest of the world. They pay lip service to welcoming us until the time we ask to be accepted as one of them. 😦 mabuhay ka!

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