Let this footage of Labour MP David Lammy lambasting British PM Theresa May’s deportation policy stand as evidence that the anti-immigrant, far-right rhetoric that is seeded deep within the highest levels of American government is not a uniquely American problem.
As Trump’s Department of Homeland Security finds new ways to punish immigrants through its policies, a similar battle is being waged in England. At stake is the fate of the Windrush generation, who came to the U.K. between 1948 and 1971 from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and other nations in the West Indies that were part of the Commonwealth; many of whom were children traveling on their parent’s passports. The BBC reports that there are now more than 500,000 people living in the U.K. that were born somewhere in the Commonwealth prior to 1971, which is also when the Immigration Act of 1971 granted Commonwealth citizens already living in the U.K. the ability to remain there indefinitely. After 1971, Commonwealth citizens faced the same restrictions as immigrants coming from other countries.
While this isn’t a direct parallel to what’s happening in the United States, the lead-up to Lammy’s remarks feels eerily familiar. The Guardian has a thorough timeline of how the situation has escalated: Since late 2017, the Home Office has started sending deportation letters to people who have lived in there for the majority of their lives. This is the “hostile environment” a then-Home Secretary May promised for all immigrants in the U.K. back in 2013, which she is now fulfilling as PM.
Lammy, whose parents are from Guyana, calls himself a proud member of the Windrush generation. On Monday he pointed to a document provided by the Home Office for those who find themselves deported to a country they hardly know.
From The Guardian:
The guide, produced in 2013, offers a list of dos and don’ts for people being deported to Jamaica, including the tip: “Try to be ‘Jamaican’ – use local accents and dialect”. It also reveals the name of the Jamaican currency and the names of some major Jamaican television stations and newspapers.
“How exactly can someone pretend to ‘be Jamaican’ when they are British and have lived here all their lives?” asked Lammy.
After the pamphlet came to light on Monday, he told the Guardian: “This document was published when Theresa May was home secretary, proudly promoting her hostile environments policy – the starting point for the injustices that we are seeing writ large for the Windrush generation.
The situation is only made more chaotic by the fact that the government didn’t keep any paperwork or documentation for the Commonwealth citizens impacted under the 1971 immigration law, so it’s difficult for those of that generation to prove their status.
Naturally, a spokesperson for the Home Office denied that the document in question was related to the Windrush generation, “who are in the U.K. legally.” After the backlash, May apologized to 12 leaders of Caribbean nations, promising that there would be no deportations.
The Guardian reports:
The prime minister told a meeting with Caribbean leaders she wanted to dispel any impression that her government was “in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens, particularly those from the Caribbean”.
“I take this issue very seriously. The home secretary apologised in the House of Commons yesterday for any anxiety caused. And I want to apologise to you today. Because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused,” she said.
Amber Rudd, Home secretary, declared that a new task force within the Home Office would be formed, “dedicated to ensuring that Commonwealth-born longterm U.K. residents would no longer find themselves classified as being in the U.K. illegally.” It’s unclear, however, if families living under the threat of deportation will be put at ease by the about-face.