"We have an opportunity to reset the clock," MPs were told today as Pacific Leadership Forum members pushed the Government to give overstayers pathways to permanent residency on compassionate grounds.
Makahokovalu Pailate, Dr Tony Fakahau and Pakilau Manase Lua presented to a Parliament committee a petition launched last year when Pasifika leaders called on the Government to grant residency for overstayers amid the Covid crisis.
Pailate said the petition was launched after lockdown "where people couldn't go home or get support in New Zealand".
"We had 35,000 sign this petition last year. It's a huge support."
He told Breakfast that "today we are going to talk about the families, the economic impact of these communities… and the vulnerability of these families and thirdly we will attempt to present a set of pathways".
"Hopefully after that we can see some traction."
He said there was a perception overstayers were a burden and costed New Zealand taxpayers money – however he said this was not true, saying each one of the 14,000 overstayers contributed by paying taxes such as GST each day.
"This a community continuously putting money into the Government."
Fakahau told the committee he spoke to them as a son of an overstayer.
"They are family too, part of our community, part of our DNA. Overstayers too, as us."
"As a nation, we have an opportunity to reset the clock. Let's start fresh. Compassion should apply to all people, regardless of their legal status to remain in Aotearoa."
He asked the committee to recommend that overstayers be given the chance of a pathway to residency.
"Our people have stood alongside Kiwis during world wars, hardship and turmoil, and today we ask for you to stand with us in our time of need."
The issue also was raised during last month's apology by the Government for the 1970s dawn raids, when members of the Pacific community were racially targeted by police for the Government's immigration policies.
Tongan Princess Mele Siu'ilikutapu Kalaniuvaulu Fotofili told the crowd at the apology that it would "could be better and complete should the Government promptly respond to the immigration-related needs of our community".
"Let us make Aotearoa our home."