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McCarthyism is alive and well - and it's in the Immigration department.
May 4, 2014 10:24 PM   Subscribe

The Department of Immigration and Border Patrol of Australia's secret blacklist of immigration lawyers and agents has been discovered. DIBP claims that the list is used for "risk assessment" for partner visas and has "no impact" on assessing cases. The Migration Alliance, the lobby group of Australian migration agents that broke the news of the list, is not convinced.
posted by divabat (38 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The linked articles are very good, but the PDF linked to in the first Migration Alliance article is really quite chilling. Pages 47-48: The document has been in use since 2010. Agents whose names appear on the list were not told or given any opportunity to comment on their inclusion on the list, apparently because it's a workflow tool not intended to affect the outcome of any decision on a case. Right. Even some of the DIBP people in the email trail seem baffled by the existence of the list and have difficulty trotting out the accepted response.

I would dearly love to blame this one on the Rabbit but sounds like DIBP is solely responsible in a completely non-partisan way. Joy.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:51 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Australia did nice job with gun control. Now get over your racism. Change your constitution.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:57 AM on May 5 [4 favorites]


In 2010 it was known as the Department for Immigration and Citizenship, which tells you something about the focus. It seems that whoever is in power does influence a lot of Immigration's policies, but it's been fucked no matter what.
posted by divabat at 1:07 AM on May 5 [3 favorites]


It's just the usual hoo hah against anyone who isn't white.
posted by Pudhoho at 1:58 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Could you elaborate more on your drive-by accusations of racism, Pudhoho?
posted by Salamander at 2:10 AM on May 5


Could you elaborate more on your drive-by accusations of racism, Pudhoho?

It's the Australian immigration agency and you're questioning assertions of racism?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:18 AM on May 5 [11 favorites]


Yes, I am. Sorry for being interested in facts, rather than glib one-liners.
posted by Salamander at 2:20 AM on May 5 [6 favorites]


It's the Australian immigration agency and you're questioning assertions of racism?

It's an entire country and you're posting offensive generalising one-liners?
posted by Quilford at 2:22 AM on May 5 [2 favorites]


Quilford: exactly.

I don't pop in to threads about American shootings and make random generalizations about US politics.

What exactly do you, Pope Guilty, or Pudhoho, know about Australian immigration law or the Commonwealth Constitution of Australia? What insider information do you have about the racist motivations of the existence of an A- and B-list of immigration lawyers/migration agents?

Either have something to say, or maybe let Australians get some comments in before you shoot off randomly at the mouth as a blatant troll for favourites.
posted by Salamander at 2:26 AM on May 5 [5 favorites]


It's an entire country and you're posting offensive generalising one-liners?

I didn't say "it's Australia", I said "It's the Australian immigration agency", but hey, way to reading comprehension there.

As to racism, even on Metafilter, this shit has been repeatedly brought up.

Would you get all huffy if I said American immigration services are racist?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:30 AM on May 5 [4 favorites]


DIAC/DIBP is the classic example of the banality of evil perpetrated by process and policy.

Looks like they use the list of "Agents of Concern" to route applications managed by these agents to more experienced public servants.

Sounds innocuous - but in reality these are the agents who are "of concern" because they know their rights and will not accept unlawful action by the Department. The other agents get a more junior case manager who is likely to say "rejected" and have this be accepted without question.

For example, see this very FOI request, which was initially rejected by a Departmental officer and then on appeal, suddenly 20 documents are discovered for release.
posted by dave99 at 2:35 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


'the Australian immigration agency'? You don't even know what it's called. As for 'way to reading comprehension'...way to grammar (give me a break).

Nobody's huffy, just in disbelief at such uninformed comments to kick off a thread.

If you changed every instance of 'Australia' to 'the USA' in this FPP, and the first few comments were Australians saying said American immigration services are racist and you need to change your constitution, yes. My reaction would be the same. I'd be wondering if they had anything to actually say about the content of the FPP.

Or just, you know, racism is bad and all that.
posted by Salamander at 2:37 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


way to reading comprehension there

Pudhoho was addressing all Australians. When Salamander asked him what basis he had to make that remark, you responded by accusing Salamander of being ignorant of the Immigration Department's alleged racism.

Way to 'reading comprehension' yourself.
posted by Quilford at 2:39 AM on May 5 [2 favorites]


[Okay, guys, let's reset this thing please, and discuss the articles rather than other members? Thank you, everyone. ]
posted by taz at 2:41 AM on May 5 [6 favorites]


So... what are the two lists categorising these lawyers as? Why are they "of concern" and "high risk"? The fact that the Dept. of Immigration is being accused of vindictiveness implies the lawyers have gotten one over on them in some regard... but the links don't elaborate?
posted by Quilford at 2:55 AM on May 5


They are lists of "Agents Of Concern".. Applications handled by these agents are routed to more senior officers and are presumably subject to more scrutiny.

It means that these agents know the Department too well, know how to navigate their processes too well. More senior officers are then required to "defend" effectively against these agents' "tactics".

It really speaks to the toxic culture within the Department of viewing its clients as enemies and liars by default - and its approach of "find a way to refuse" rather than assess applications in good faith.
posted by dave99 at 3:02 AM on May 5 [7 favorites]


Either have something to say, or maybe let Australians get some comments in before you shoot off randomly at the mouth as a blatant troll for favourites.

Okay, as an Australian, the racist nature of the DIBP is glaringly obvious and persuasive. The lack of, for example, British backpackers who've overstayed their visas sitting in the concentration camp on Manus Island is a fairly simple place to start. The suggestion by the now Minister responsible that neighbours and the community should be notified when refugees are housed in their suburb (in the same way some juristictions notify neighbours of sex offenders moving in) shows how bigoted the issue is.
posted by Jimbob at 3:21 AM on May 5 [23 favorites]


Australian immigration lawyers, in my very limited experience, fall into two broad categories. The first sort basically help ordinary, decent, middle class people get their paperwork together, and they know ways to (legally) expedite the interminable process of getting Australian residency. They would rarely expect to appear before an immigration tribunal, because that's not the sort of thing they do. I used one of these lawyers myself and was glad I did. They make a very nice living out of a quite specialised field, and although their applications are closely scrutinised (like all applications) the immigration officer wouldn't generally expect to find any surprises there.

The other sort do difficult cases: people whose claims would be refused "but for" extenuating circumstances, people who have already been refused, people claiming asylum, that sort of thing. I have no idea how they make a living, because their clients are often broke. I can quite understand their applications receiving extra scrutiny, because these really are the hard cases. The applications will often be refused, and be appealed, and heaven help the immigration officer if any mistakes were made.

So, on the one hand the fact that we have effectively got a double stream going on here is evidence that our immigration system is broken. On the other hand, realistically, I can understand why some lawyers' applications are being more carefully scrutinised. They're the ones amongst which the hard cases will be found, the cases which will be second-guessed by a tribunal looking to end some young immigration officer's career. Treating them separately is both a saving in time and a means of self-preservation. It's also a bad practice and emblematic of a bad system, and I hope it doesn't continue.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:28 AM on May 5 [4 favorites]


Paging Uburoivas...
And as an Australian - we are fucking racists, largely - particularly in our approach to most immigration matters - I cite myself, the outcome of the last election and Scott fucking Morrison.
posted by a non e mouse at 3:31 AM on May 5 [4 favorites]


(when I say, "I cite myself" - I don't mean that I am racist - just my proximity to the issues).. ahem.
posted by a non e mouse at 3:34 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


I can understand why some lawyers' applications are being more carefully scrutinised. They're the ones amongst which the hard cases will be found

Or you could just scrutinise the hard cases. This excuse simply doesn't wash, unless you're arguing that the system is so fundamentally broken that it's literally incapable of identifying what kind of case is being dealt with from the facts of the, y'know, case.
posted by howfar at 3:37 AM on May 5 [4 favorites]


Does DIBP implement and enforce racist policies?

Well, yes. It's hard to deny.

There are clearly problems in DIBP. But I also think it has a lot to do with the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, and the views of the current government.

The first thing the Abbott Government did when it got into power late last year was change the name of the Department from "Department of Immigration and Citizenship" to "Department of Immigration and Border Protection". Instant fortress mentality.

One of the first things that Morrison did when he took over the portfolio was issue an edict that DIBP staff could no longer refer to applicants for asylum as 'clients'. Rather, they were directed to call them 'illegals' or 'detainees', notwithstanding that it is not illegal to seek asylum. It's easier to brutalise them if you dehumanise them.

Then there was this awful piece of propaganda. That was commissioned by the Rudd Government but issued by the Abbott Government.

Then, of course, there was the incident where Manus Island camp staff let PNG riot police straight out murder an asylum seeker in Australian custody (and injure countless others), and have done nothing since. The Guardian has been doing some good reporting on that. DIBP and the Government have been very secretive about that incident despite repeated demands for transparency.

And many other items...

This latest revelation is not surprising.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:39 AM on May 5 [19 favorites]


[Comment deleted. This is a post about Australian Immigration and Border Patrol; please stick to the topic of the post rather than turning this into a bloody flamewar about if all Australians are racist.]
posted by taz at 4:20 AM on May 5


It really speaks to the toxic culture within the Department

My only direct experience with the dept was back in the Howard years, but this really tallies with what I saw from officers I knew socially; total siege mentality. I remember being shocked at the time, because Canberra is generally very left leaning, public servants especially so.

a tribunal looking to end some young immigration officer's career.

Lol where did you get such a positively Dickensian image from? Goodness, if the dept fired everyone with a successful appeal against their names, half officers would be gone. Pretty sure it's not like that at all.

More broadly, I love the oxymoronic denials that this changes anything with applications - why, then, would it exist?
posted by smoke at 4:29 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


It means that these agents know the Department too well, know how to navigate their processes too well. More senior officers are then required to "defend" effectively against these agents' "tactics".

Or it could be that they've seen questionable cases from these particular agents before. Citizenship and Immigration Canada keeps a list of suspect addresses that tend to get used when people fraudulently claim as their residence in order to get citizenship, and it appears that they keep a list of suspect immigration consultants as well for use in considering applications for permanent residence and citizenship.

The idea that a lawyer or immigration consultant should face greater scrutiny after pushing a questionable application through is not per se objectionable or racist.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:54 AM on May 5


My only direct experience with the dept was back in the Howard years, but this really tallies with what I saw from officers I knew socially; total siege mentality. I remember being shocked at the time, because Canberra is generally very left leaning, public servants especially so.

I've had a reasonable amount of experience with DIBP in the last year. 'Siege mentality' is still accurate.

As a department, DIBP is the most secretive and obstructionist agency in the Australian government. You can see the evidence of this in their poor approach to FOI applications. They are one of the most FOI'd agencies in the government.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:54 AM on May 5 [2 favorites]


I forgot about this bullshit - DIBP threatened a refugee advocate over Twitter, over a comment made by another refugee advocate (and public servant) on the first advocate's Facebook wall. But her Facebook profile was locked down, set to private. It's unclear how they found out about whatever the comment was.

DIBP refused to explain what the comment was. But it has been FOI'd. Of course, DIBP are delaying as much as possible.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:00 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Scott Morrison to Manus Island detainees - “Even in your dreams, you are not going to make it to Australia.”
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:31 AM on May 5


I can understand why some lawyers' applications are being more carefully scrutinised. They're the ones amongst which the hard cases will be found

It sounds like the department is (inappropriately) using the identity of the lawyers to partition cases into "regular" and "extra scrutiny" categories, rather than looking for details within the cases themselves. You can totally see how they would start doing that, but it's a lazy and wrong approach, reminiscent of racial profiling and some of the "war on terror" missteps.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:51 AM on May 5 [4 favorites]


Also, I'd be surprised if the US immigration authorities didn't keep a list of lawyers who were (supposedly, at least) overrepresented in cases involving fraud or trafficking on the one hand, and controversial asylum applications on the other, used of course to trigger deeper scrutiny of those cases. Legal or not, I have no idea, but I can't imagine that they don't do it.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 AM on May 5


There's a difference though between lawyers you genuinely think are more likely to be involved in a sketchy application and retaliating against lawyers for daring to support immigrants' rights, though. I don't know if there are any governments who could maintain a list of the former without it eventually turning into the latter, but in principle I can see a distinction.
posted by hoyland at 7:04 AM on May 5


Hostility to outside scrutiny and use of 3M products to evade FOI has long been standard in Canberra.
posted by hawthorne at 7:41 AM on May 5


Dip Flash: "It sounds like the department is (inappropriately) using the identity of the lawyers to partition cases into "regular" and "extra scrutiny" categories ..."

They should just ask us poor bastards who've had to use 'em which lawyers and agents need to be sorted into "extra scrutiny". I wouldn't doubt for an instant that the first company I used would need to be extra-scrutinized. The man who ran it was the one most duplicitous pieces-of-shit I've ever had to deal with. The second company was so much nicer.

There's not enough scrutiny on immigration "agents" in this country, and a lot of innocent people are getting caught up and focused on because the government isn't focusing on the right people who are doing all the illegal things.

I rather suspect my first agent was on this blacklist; that would explain why my paperwork took orders of magnitude longer to be processed than it should have. That said, that fucker deserved it.
posted by barnacles at 7:56 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Is the only link to McCarthyism there because someone, somewhere has a list of xxx 'bad guy' names ?

There's nuance to saying McCarthyism, but usually it means a political witch hunt with grandstanding and dragging folks through the mud, and strong hints of commies.. This sounds more like blacklisting than anything else.
posted by k5.user at 8:20 AM on May 5


I wish the list was made public, because I'd like to know if my agent was on the list and if that explains the constant delay.

Also DIetcetc has been problematic long before Morrison - either just before or just after I applied for PR they rejected a whole pile of applications en masse just because they were behind on their backlog, nothing to do with the applications themselves. And the way they determine 'skills' and the constant change in their 'desired skills' list (if I waited 6 months to apply for my PR I would no longer quality) is messed up.
posted by divabat at 9:23 AM on May 5


There's nuance to saying McCarthyism, but usually it means a political witch hunt with grandstanding and dragging folks through the mud, and strong hints of commies.. This sounds more like blacklisting than anything else.

If you are going argue about nuanced aspects of McCarthyism then you should be aware that one of the larger impacts of it was blacklisting.
posted by srboisvert at 9:33 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


One thing that puzzles me about this list is WHY they exist. I couldn't seem to get a clear answer (and maybe that's the point). Are the agents there because their cases are often fraudulent, or because they're more likely to challenge decisions, or what?
posted by divabat at 11:36 AM on May 5


Further to the racism issue, this was published today: Ex-Manus Island workers report beatings, rapes of asylum seekers.
Nicole Judge, a worker on the island, said she was "shocked and distressed" at the conditions on Manus Island when she arrived in September last year to work in a general support role.

In the three months Ms Judge was on the island, she claims in the submission to the Senate inquiry there was sexual activity in the so-called "rape dungeon" in one of the compounds and was told by the guards to carry a "rape whistle" whilse inside the centre. When she told Salvation Army staff that a young Myanmar asylum seeker was walking away from a toilet block in pain, her Salvation Army team leader dismissed her concerns, saying that "because these transferees are Muslim and actively engaging in prayer that any sexual activity would have been consensual".
...
...another asylum seeker was being beaten against a wall and a metal bed frame to the point he was unconscious by two G4S guards, Ms Judge again complained to Salvation Army management, but was told she was "stupid" and "good luck".
...
Ms Judge also claims expat guards told her "the Cronulla riots was the best thing to happen to Australia", while also telling asylum seekers to "f--- themselves" and to "return to their f---ing country" if they didn't stop complaining about their situation.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:59 PM on May 5


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