This week, a terrible event will happen. Sarah Mason Smith's husband, Brent Smith, will be deported by the Home Office's £18,600 threshold rule, sending Brent back to the United States. His crime against the country he has married into and would work for? Sarah, a British citizen, does not earn enough to sponsor Brent's right to remain. Instead of looking forward to sharing their first married Christmas time together, they will instead, thanks to the Home Office, be forced to spend it apart.
In July this year, the Court of Appeal upheld the power of the Home Office that, if you earn £18,600 per year, your foreign spouse can remain in the UK. If they do not, like the refugee boats in the Mediterranean, you're on your own. According to the Court of Appeal judges, it was not within their power to impugn upon the Home Secretary Theresa May's powers to set the income threshold at this level. Never mind that, as Barrister Tom Muman said in 2013, "the £18,600 requirement has caused endless misery to genuine couples who are being forced apart from one another simply because they cannot afford 'the price of love'". Brent and Sarah are paying that price, thanks to this Government, in full.
The absurdity of this £18,600 rule is beyond the realm of reason. It rightly causes rancour to any who are faced with the cold consequences of its enforcement. It is without logical foundation. Consider this: the UK National Minimum Wage is £6.50 per hour. Taking an average 40-hour week, that gives this member of our society, one of the working poorest, an income of £12,840. Even without delving into the fog of tax credits and benefits, how can this Government say that it is right that its poorest working members may survive on this amount without having the same rights as all other British people? We long ago removed the bar of income deciding on our right to vote; however, it seems to remain and flourish under this Government over our decisions of love.
It gets worse. What truly adds to the stench of this callous threshold is that Sarah is a day support worker for an autism charity. Instead of seeking her own riches, Sarah has devoted her life and time to helping those who need most in our society. Yet her reward, as far as the Government position indicates, is to be denied her husband and her equal right to be a member of our society. It is a foul day, as it is right now, when, through discrimination based upon financial means, the Government actively suggests that the poor, through this ruling, are second-class citizens to be denied the freedom and justice we all deserve and they promise to safeguard and uphold. Allegedly, we are all equal before the law; but this Government quite clearly believes that, by virtue of your bank balance, some are more equal than others.
And then it becomes irrational. If Brent's financial position and Sarah's were reversed, there would be no plane forcibly removing a loved one before Christmas - or ever. As the son of a migrant, I find it utterly repugnant that my British father and foreign mother would, were they to go through what the Smiths are enduring, succeed by virtue of my father's income.
In response to the Court of Appeal's decision, the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, said that 'we welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution, but family life must not be established in the UK at the taxpayer's expense'. Mr Brokenshire: Brent and Sarah meet your requirements, yet you persist in ruining their lives contrary to your own assertion above. What gives you the right to decide whom our workers should love?
The £18,600 threshold is a crime. It is a crime against what a civilised and lawful society is founded upon: that everyone is equal before the eyes of the law. On moral grounds the threshold has no basis. On the Smith's financial grounds, it still has no basis. The threshold provision is an illogical stain upon us all. I simply ask Theresa May and James Brokenshire to look long and hard at the damage and pain they are unnecessarily inflicting upon families nationwide. I ask them to look Sarah in the eye and tell her that she does not have the right to hold her husband's hand in the country she was born in. When May and Brokenshire gather for Christmas dinner with their own families, I wonder how they would feel if there was someone missing due to their Government's own actions.
For Brent and Sarah, the £18,600 threshold condemns their Christmas time to one carried out across the Atlantic. Instead of sharing a kiss, they will share a call. Instead of waking together, they will wake alone. It is a Christmas tale no one should ever endure. I hope that by Christmas 2015, common sense and not discrimination will prevail.