Amber Rudd [a member of the Conservative Party] lost her job as U.K. Home Secretary this weekend amid a widening immigration scandal. Yet there’s every chance Britain’s political class—and voters—will let this crisis go to waste.
Ms. Rudd’s resignation is the latest fallout from the Windrush scandal. For two decades starting in the late 1940s, the U.K. accepted migrants from across the Empire (later, the Commonwealth) to rebuild after World War II. Known as the “Windrush generation” because one of the first ships to bring them was the HMT Empire Windrush, hundreds of thousands and their children worked hard, paid taxes, and assimilated into U.K. society.
A 1971 law granted these migrants permanent U.K. residence and a path to citizenship. But an unknown number either never obtained formal proof of their immigration status because they didn’t realize they needed it, or have lost the relevant paperwork. Now they’re running afoul of a 2012 law that requires employers, landlords and even hospitals to verify the immigration status of prospective tenants, employees or patients. Some face deportation.
Voters shocked by the Home Office’s mistreatment of the Windrush generation might ask what they thought would happen when they elected politicians committed to blunt numerical targets. A Sky Data poll last week found that 53% of voters support deportation quotas, but 54% believe the suffering of Windrush migrants is “not a price worth paying” to discourage illegal immigration. The teachable moment here is that Draconian immigration restrictions are, well, Draconian—a lesson that also applies to America’s debate over the Dreamers brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The temptation will be to view Windrush as a scandal of bureaucratic incompetence, and there’s plenty of that on display. But the bigger scandal is that pandering politicians and indecisive voters have goaded each other into immigration policies that shock the public when they come to light.