Sir, – The grown-up discussion about migration policy and due process that Ronan Scanlan called for in his letter (September 12th) is an important and necessary discussion to have. Semantics matter when talking about migration. The use of the term “illegal immigrants” is reductive and hampers efforts to have any sort of grown-up discussion on the topic of migration policy.
In Ireland, we have an immigration system that makes it almost impossible to obtain an employment permit for jobs in hospitality, security, and care work. These three industries rely heavily on migrant labour, yet those who work in the sectors face major institutional barriers in securing long-term immigration permission to practise their profession. Their alternative is often an insecure immigration status which is expensive and does not reflect their status as workers crucial to the Irish economy. This insecurity undermines their status as workers, making it more difficult to engage in action against an employer who may choose to exploit them. This is a situation that occurs all too often.
The above situation is one example of the difficult circumstances faced by migrants in Ireland and all over the world. It is clearly complex, nuanced and affected by unequal power structures in terms of migration policy and labour relations. Any grown-up discussion on this issue requires us to move on from using terms like “illegal” when speaking about the lived experiences of other human beings. This is of particular importance in a political climate that is increasingly tolerant of speech that enables and encourages racism. – Yours, etc,