Given how thoroughly shit things are here in the Land of the Free, you might not be aware of how thoroughly shit things are in the Land of the Grey Boiled Meat and Warm Beer, my beloved home country of Britain. Here is just how shit they are: The Home Office, the UK’s immigration agency, seems to be trying its hardest to emulate Immigration and Customs Enforcement, America’s agents of fascism.
The Guardian reported this morning that footage had surfaced of an immigration “enforcement team” arriving at the home of a Chinese immigrant living in the UK at 5:30 a.m., handcuffs in hand, and informing her—incorrectly—that she had been classified as “immigration offender” and had to leave the UK.
The woman, Zixuan Qu, lives with her fiancé Duncan Watkinson, whom she hasn’t been able to marry because the Home Office has kept her passport since she applied for legal status in 2014, according to the newspaper.
Watkinson recounted to the Guardian how the immigration agents barged into their home earlier this month:
Watkinson said staff began their operation in a very intimidating manner. “The initial announcement that they’re there is an incredible loud banging on the doors and windows. The reaction turns from complete shock and surprise to confusion, because you haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.
“They came in without showing me anything. I opened the door and the first thing that happened was one of the officers put their hands on my chest and pushed me back into the room. Following him were six or seven others.”
Qu appears to have been the victim of a massive clerical error that has put her life on hold for four years—she hasn’t been able to work, study, marry her fiancé, or go back to China to visit family:
In 2014 she submitted an application to extend her student visa. She received a letter from the Home Office saying it was considering her case, but it explained that her application, like thousands of other visa applications at the time, was complicated by a government decision to suspend an English-language proficiency test that she and tens of thousands of other students had had to take as part of their student visa applications, amid concerns over irregularities in the test results nationally.
The letter stated: “Please be assured that we will make a decision on your case as quickly as possible … We will not take removal action as a result of the contents of this letter.”
The Home Office initially claimed to the Guardian that Qu was served a removal notice in January, although Qu said she never received the notice. She hired a lawyer in 2015, who repeatedly contacted the Home Office, receiving no reply. It wasn’t until today—after the Guardian reported the details of the early morning raid on her home—that the Home Office finally admitted their error and granted her the visa.
This sort of utter inhumanity—banging on a person’s door at 5:30 in the morning to (erroneously) tell them they’re up for deportation—is grimly reminiscent of how America’s ICE agents treat immigrants, deporting fathers who have lived in the US for 40 years, arresting people by mistake (in one case holding an American citizen for three and a half years), and arresting people in front of their children, among myriad other unconscionable actions. And when ICE locks people up, they’re leaving them in detention for longer and longer (not to mention proposing plans to separate children from their parents).
Qu’s story isn’t the only example of the Home Office’s attempts to mold themselves after ICE. They’ve used powers meant to be reserved for tackling threats to national security to threaten highly-skilled workers with deportation by using tax returns to identify minor discrepancies in information provided on immigration forms. They also recently admitted to wrongfully deporting 63 people from the so-called “Windrush generation,” immigrants who arrived from Commonwealth countries between 1948 and 1971 (when Prime Minister Theresa May was just 15), and lied about whether or not they had set targets for deportation levels. They were also recently forced, after public scrutiny, to stop requiring the National Health Service to provide data on immigrant patients.
It’s a good reminder that anyone who claims to care about “big government” but supports a fast and furious deportation regime is full of shit. Government doesn’t get much bigger and more frightening than banging down your door and telling you to leave your entire life behind because they fucked up some forms.