Politicians throw support behind Tongan migrant facing deportation

By 1news.co.nz and is republished with permission

Politicians have thrown their support behind a Tongan migrant facing deportation after she overstayed her visa by more than 20 years.

Loasi Latu, a full-time carer for her disabled brother, has lived here for 20 years.

Loasi Latu is the full-time carer for her intellectually disabled brother and she’s worried about what will happen to him if she’s forced to leave.

Labour’s Phil Twyford has today written to Associate Immigration Minister Chris Penk, pleading with him to intervene.

“I’ve said to the new Associate Minister that I believe this is at the high end of those cases asking for a compassionate intervention.”

Twyford last held the role of Associate Minister of Immigration when Labour was in Government.

“The fact that Mrs Latu has been delivering 24-hour care to her disabled brother for two decades, that’s what makes this case different,” he said.

Latu’s brother Viliami Takapautolo can’t speak or eat, and suffers from seizures.

Immigration NZ told 1News Latu and her husband have been living in New Zealand illegally since 2004.

Their application for an exemption under a special direction was declined in January and the pair have no further right to appeal.

Penk told the family late last week that he wouldn’t intervene.

But immigration lawyer Mark Williams believed Latu had a strong case.

“It seems to be quite a sad case, really, where someone doesn’t seem to have had a fair hearing, but that’s what ministerial discretion is about,” he said.

“When you get to 20 years, that’s a long part of your life in a country, you’re very well settled. It’s typically not that difficult to show special circumstances.”

A community prayer was held in Māngere Bridge today for Latu and her family.

Her nephew Otako Kaufusi said it was difficult to imagine his aunt not being around.

“I won’t know what to do, it’s gonna break us,” he said.

“She pretty much raised me and my siblings and raised three generations. With her care and support, it’s enabled us to pursue our careers, and contribute to New Zealand in a positive way.”

Family friend Tin To went along to the community gathering to show his support.

“It’s very upsetting because they’re like family to us. Everyone is hurting,” he said.

Green Party immigration spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said he hoped the Government could show some compassion.

“Sending her back to Tonga would destroy a whole family’s life,” he said.

“The Associate Minister of Immigration has a chance to send a message to the country that he values our connections to the Pacific, families able to be together, and ultimately people who have put roots down in Aotearoa.”

An Auckland doctor has written an urgent appeal in support of the family, saying Takapautolo was totally dependent on Latu’s care.

“He would be severely disadvantaged if moved into residential care,” the letter read.

“Such a move would be culturally inappropriate and detrimental to his quality of life. In addition, it has the potential to be life-threatening as the loss of personalised care from Loasi would cause significant emotional distress, decreased independence, and social isolation.”

Williams said if the minister did not change his mind, there was still a chance the family could prevent Latu from being deported.

“Immigration or even the minister could issue a visitor visa for one day for this person to legalise their status, that would be allowed to expire, and then they would be allowed to action their appeal rights to the Immigration Protection Tribunal for a different hearing.”

The family is already preparing to make big sacrifices should their efforts fail.

Latu’s niece Karina Kaufusi said that included quitting her job as a senior structural engineer in order to look after Takapautolo.

“It removes a skilled worker from an already under pressure infrastructure industry and it removes a tax paying citizen from contributing to the economy,” she said.

“Another option is sending Viliami back to Tonga but they have no home in Tonga and they have no job opportunities in Tonga.”

Immigration NZ is now considering its next steps.

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