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  • J Times Dec 7 06: UNHCR “Japan cannot stop immigration”, Kyodo same day: Lawsuit argues “unreasonable to prohibit dual-income immigrant families” (updated)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on December 7th, 2006

    Hello Blog. File this under the “Resistance is Futile” category, article number 213 or so. The UN has been saying since 2000 (and the PM Obuchi Cabinet agreed) that Japan must allow 600,000 immigrants per year or else. Currently Japan is only taking in about 50,000 registered foreigners net per annum. And those they are taking in, as I have shown in recent previous articles on this blog (http://www.debito.org/?p=105, http://www.debito.org/?p=99), are given horrendous working conditions and slave wages.

    UNHCR grumbles about Japan’s lack of official acceptance of immigrants in Japan Times article below. Then Kyodo News same day (follows Japan Times article) gives the case of a Myanmar man denied the ability to make a livelihood. Facing deportation after being caught working full time as a dependent on his wife’s visa, he filed a lawsuit seeking to stay. He argues it is unreasonable to prohibit immigrant families from having a dual income. Power to him.

    Hellooooo? People waking up yet? Debito in Sapporo

    ======================================

    Japan can’t stop the tide of people: UNHCR chief
    By KAREN FOSTER Staff writer
    Courtesy of Matt and Steve at The Community
    The Japan Times Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20061207f1.html

    As more people migrate worldwide, Japan will not be able to stop
    immigration, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for
    Refugees, saying he was concerned with Japan’s restrictive refugee
    acceptance program and treatment of asylum-seekers.

    “One key aspect of the 21st century will be people moving, around the
    world. And I don’t think any society will be able not to participate
    in this situation,” Antonio Guterres told a news conference Monday.

    Guterres, on a three-day visit that ended Wednesday, said the U.N.
    agency was troubled with all parts of the process to become a refugee
    in Japan.

    “I’d say we have three main concerns — first, improvement of the
    reception of asylum-seekers and of the procedural mechanisms to make
    sure that there is an adequate set of decisions in an adequate time
    framework and the forms of assistance that are desirable,” he said.
    “And the possibility to open one, even if limited, program of
    resettlement.”

    “We recognize that every country has the right to define its own
    migration policy,” Guterres elaborated in an interview Tuesday with
    The Japan Times. “Our concern and the concern that is established by
    international law is that for instance in these mixed flows of
    populations that we are now witnessing all around the world,
    independent of migration policies, countries are supposed to grant
    protection to the people that need protection. That means physical
    access to protection procedures, namely refugee status determination
    and the fair treatment of their requirements.”

    The ex-Portuguese prime minister came to talk to the Foreign Ministry
    about Japan’s refugee assistance overseas, nongovernmental
    organizations and to boost ties with the private sector, and to
    discuss with the Justice Ministry the treatment of asylum-seekers.

    NGOs here complain that despite changes in the immigration law last
    year, the government continues to detain asylum-seekers and does not
    provide them with adequate services, even after they are declared
    refugees.

    The UNHCR’s Country Operations Plan 2007 notes that while people are
    applying for refugees status here, they do not have the right to work
    and get little community support, including free legal service, which
    residents can get under the new legal aid system.

    While immigration law changes introduced a new appeals review panel
    with nonimmigration counselors — appointed by the government — the
    UNHCR report says it is still not independent.

    Still, Guterres was upbeat about recent developments: “Japan has an
    embryonic asylum system, but that is moving with positive steps.”

    The number of people who have been given asylum here rose
    dramatically in 2005.

    The government finished processing 384 asylum applications in 2005.
    Of those 46 were recognized as refugees — 15 of them on appeal —
    and 97 were issued special resident permits for humanitarian reasons.

    This compares with only 15 people recognized as refugees and nine
    granted special permits in 2004 out of 426 applications processed.

    Janet Lim, head of the UNHCR’s Bureau for Asia and the Pacific who
    also was visiting, said the UNHCR had lots of experience helping
    nations deal with refugees, and was ready to share its expertise with
    Tokyo.

    Robert Robinson, UNHCR chief representative for Japan, told the
    Monday briefing he hoped talks at the Justice Ministry speed up
    introduction of a border-guard training program. “That’s a critical
    move for us,” he said.

    In addition to Japan’s moral obligation to help people in danger, Lim
    said refugees can help countries that need labor, alluding to Japan’s
    shrinking labor force.

    “They are here anyway and refugees are not just here as a burden,”
    she said. “If we were given the possibility to train them and give
    them skills, they could be made to fit the labor need of the country.”
    ENDS

    ============================
    Suit targets dual-income curbs on immigrants
    Kyodo News, Courtesy of Steve at The Community
    Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006

    A man from Myanmar facing deportation after being caught working full time
    while here as a dependent on his wife’s visa filed a lawsuit Wednesday
    seeking to stay, arguing it is unreasonable to prohibit immigrant families
    from having a dual income.

    Nangzing Nawlar, 47, currently detained by the Tokyo Regional Immigration
    Bureau, came to Japan in October 2001 as a dependent of his Myanmarese wife,
    who works as an interpreter, according to his lawyer.

    Nawlar initially took care of their son but started working longer than the
    legally permitted 28 hours a week at a “yakinuku” (grilled meat) restaurant
    after their daughter was born in August 2003.

    He said his wife’s income alone was no longer sufficient to sustain the
    growing family, while the illness of his relative back home also added to
    the family’s financial woes.

    Immigration authorities discovered in August that he was exceeding the work
    limit and issued the deportation order in October.

    The focus is on the visa issued to family members of foreign residents who
    come to Japan as dependents.

    It limits dependents to working only 28 hours a week, which the Myanmarese
    man said is discriminatory because foreign-born spouses of Japanese do not
    face this limit.

    “Although working couples have become common, the (immigration) system
    basically banning spouses from working disregards their personal rights and
    violates the Constitution,” Nawlar argued in the lawsuit.

    “Our marriage will go under without a double income,” he said. “It is
    discriminatory to limit the work of spouses who are dependents of foreign
    residents when other foreigners can work with no limit if they are spouses
    of Japanese.”

    Nawlar’s wife, L. Hkawshawng, told a news conference in Tokyo that there are
    limits for her to support the family as the number of children increases. “I
    cannot possibly sustain the family alone,” she said.
    ENDS

    ===================================
    Continuing on that note:

    Government tells Iranian family to get out of Japan
    Kyodo News, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20061209a7.html

    Courtesy of Matt at The Community

    Immigration authorities on Friday denied an application by an Iranian
    family for a special residence permit to continue living in Japan,
    officials said.

    The Justice Ministry gave a one-month extension to Amine Khalil, 43,
    his 39-year-old wife and their two daughters, aged 18 and 10, to
    prepare for their departure.

    The ministry told Amine and his wife of its decision at the Tokyo
    Regional Immigration Bureau on the final day of their last monthlong
    extension, the officials said.

    Amine, his wife and their elder daughter came to Japan between 1990
    and 1991. The younger daughter was born here in 1996. Settling in
    Gunma Prefecture, the family sought a special residence permit,
    arguing they would face difficulties if they returned to Iran.

    The elder daughter, Maryam, who wants to become a nursery school
    teacher, had planned to begin a two-year junior college course in
    Gunma in the spring.

    She told reporters she wants to continue her life in Japan with her
    Japanese friends. The younger daughter, Shahzad, is in elementary
    school.

    Amine said Japanese is his daughters’ first language and they cannot
    speak Farsi, adding they cannot live in Iran.

    In 1999, the family applied to immigration authorities for a special
    residence permit. The request was denied and the family was ordered
    to leave. The Tokyo District Court repealed the deportation order,
    but that ruling was overturned by the Tokyo High Court and the
    Supreme Court upheld the high court decision.

    The Japan Times, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006
    ENDS

    ============================
    QUICK COMMENT
    Could somebody please explain me what kind of threat this family could possibly pose to the J body politic by being allowed to stay?

    Is Immigration (not to mention the Supreme Court) worried that this would set a precedent, creating a tidal wave of immigrants staying on beyond their visas then claiming residency as a fait accompli? I’m not even sure that this phenomenon even applies in this case.

    Given the low birthrate and the labor shortage, shouldn’t Japan be to some degree encouraging people with families who want to stay on as immigrants? Debito in Sapporo

    7 Responses to “J Times Dec 7 06: UNHCR “Japan cannot stop immigration”, Kyodo same day: Lawsuit argues “unreasonable to prohibit dual-income immigrant families” (updated)”

    1. debito Says:

      Forwarding all the following comments with the permission of their respective authors. Debito

      ===============================

      From: Scott Hards
      Subject: Re: [Community] Government tells Iranian family to get out of Japan
      Date: December 9, 2006 1:45:47 PM JST
      To: communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com

      > Could somebody please explain me what kind of threat this family
      > could possibly pose to the J body politic by being allowed to stay?

      The whole basis for their petition is that they’ve been here a long time, i.e., have managed to avoid being caught as illegal immigrants for 10 years, or whatever it is.

      Granting them the ability to stay here just because they’ve gotten away with it for so long basically sends the message that everybody should just come to Japan and stay illegally; if you manage to avoid the authorities long enough, the country’s yours!

      When one puts this into perspective with other crimes, you can see how ludicrous the argument is:

      “Officer, I’ve been speeding for 20 years now and never been caught before. Why don’t you just grant me a special exemption to let me continue to do so?”

      Sure, the kids suffer in cases like this. But that’s the fault of their own parents, NOT Japanese Immigration. I’m sure the elder daughter can get an education visa on her own to come back to Japan after her return to Iran. Children the world over suffer because of the idiocy of their own parents. This is nothing new.


      Scott T. Hards
      Tochigi, Japan

    2. debito Says:

      From: Matt Dioguardi
      Subject: Re: [Community] Government tells Iranian family to get out of Japan
      Date: December 10, 2006 7:26:58 AM JST
      To: communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com

      On Dec 9, 2006, at 1:45 PM, Scott T. Hards wrote:

      > The whole basis for their petition is that they’ve been here a long
      > time, i.e., have managed to avoid being caught as illegal
      > immigrants for 10 years, or whatever it is.

      Scott,

      I think this you paint too black and white a picture here.

      Following the Iranian Islamic Revolution (1979) and the Iran-Iraq war
      (1980-1988), there was a large diaspora of Iranians to several
      different parts of the world. These were basically political refugees.

      American took in 280,000 people. Europe took in 170,000. Most of
      those people are *still* living in Europe and in America.

      Actually, by chance, in the late 1980’s for a part-time job I had in
      college, nearly all my co-workers happen to be Iranians. So having
      listened to the situations they faced in Iran, I have a lot of
      sympathy for them. I’ll also note that as far as my limited
      experience goes, the Iranian immigrants that I met, adapted *very*
      well to their American environment. They were people of outstanding
      character.

      Now, during the time that America and Europe were admitting
      incredibly large numbers of political refugees, what was Japan doing?
      Keep in mind that Japan like Europe and America also imports vast
      amounts of oil, and at the time had one of the strongest economies in
      the world.

      Basically, Japan tatemae policy was that Iranians would not be
      granted refugee status in Japan in contrast to America and Europe.
      However, to soften the criticism, Japan’s *obvious* honne policy was
      to allow Iranians to come over on a tourist visa, and then *ignore*
      them when they overstayed the visa. There was a clear policy that was
      never put on paper of *allowing* Iranians to stay in Japan. There was
      clearly a lot of to be gained politically from carrying out this
      honne policy, so it was done out of self-interest.

      When I first came to Japan in 1994, I remember seeing Iranians
      selling illegal telephone cards right in front of Nagoya station.
      There was a koban literally half a block away, but *nothing* was done
      to prevent this. I hasten to add, however, that most of the Iranians
      at that time were not involved in illegal activities, but instead in
      doing the three K work, that most Japanese didn’t *want* to do during
      the bubble economy.

      The picture you want to paint here of an Iranian family that slyly
      escaped detection all these years, simply does not match up to the
      reality. Their children attended schools, and the police inevitably
      knew who they were. Almost surely city officials also knew both where
      they were living and where they working. However, no one *did* anything.

      So there was a policy in place to accept these workers. Note it would
      have looked terrible for Japan to have suddenly deported the 32,000
      Iranians who by 1992 were living, technically illegal, in Japan. So,
      nothing was done.

      Now, fast forwards to 2006. Many of the *illegal* Iranian immigrants
      have gone back to Iran on their own because as the Japanese economy
      slowed they couldn’t were forced off their jobs. (When *Japanese*
      workers became available they were quickly pushed out of the work
      place with basically no legal recourse for them to fight back.)

      As there’s little political pressure for the government to let the
      remaining ones stay, suddenly its decided that Japan doesn’t want
      these *illegal* immigrants after all, so randomly some of them are
      being rounded up (inevitably the more honest ones who are easy to
      catch) and sent to Iran.

      This strikes me as inhumane as it is unfair.

      > Granting them the ability to stay here just because they’ve gotten
      > away with it for so long basically sends the message that everybody
      > should just come to Japan and stay illegally; if you manage to
      > avoid the authorities long enough, the country’s yours!

      Look, why is it you think they some how *belong* in Iran? Because
      they are ethnic Iranian in someway?

      Japan had *every* opportunity to send these people to Iran years ago
      when they first came and did *nothing*. I can understand deportation
      after a person has been in the country a short time, however, the
      Japanese government has got to take some responsibility for this.

      The idea that these people some how naturally belong in Iran, after
      they have been *allowed* for literally years to totally acclimate
      themselves here is morally unjust.

      It’s true that if Iran *wants* these people back, they are fortunate,
      but this should not be assumed. For how long should Iran’s
      responsibility go in accepting these people back. Note that over the
      many years this family was in Japan, Iran simply had no control over
      them. However, Japan did. So which government should be held
      accountable?

      Why should Iran now be considered the country responsible for these
      people? Perhaps because they are not innately *Japanese* in some way?

      At what point should Japan have to take responsibility for its lax
      enforcement policies?

      After five years, after ten years, after fifty years.

      At some point Japan has got to say, look we had these people all this
      time, we didn’t do a damn thing to send them back, so sending them
      back at this point just doesn’t make any sense any more. The people
      in question are no longer Iran’s responsibility, but ours.

      > When one puts this into perspective with other crimes, you can see
      > how ludicrous the argument is:

      > “Officer, I’ve been speeding for 20 years now and never been caught
      > before. Why don’t you just grant me a special exemption to let me
      > continue to do so?”

      But for no other crime is a person deported. These people live here
      and function like anyone else in the community. Has it ever occurred
      to you, that yes, while maybe they should be punished, that the
      punishment doesn’t fit the crime? Should we deport their employers to
      Iran as well? How about the teachers who taught their children at
      school? Shall we send them to Iran, too? Or how about the police at
      the local Koban who did nothing to apprehend them? Let’s deport them
      too. As clearly all the people just mentioned are Iranian
      sympathizers, perhaps they belong in Iran as well.

      Iran is simply not this family’s home any more. Japan has as much
      *moral* right to send them back to Iran, as it does to dump
      radioactive waste in Iran when no one is looking.

      This family has simply been in Japan too long. If Japan wanted to
      send them back, they should have done it long ago. The government is
      in error here, far, far more than the family.

      > Sure, the kids suffer in cases like this.

      They sure do.

      > But that’s the fault of their own parents, NOT Japanese Immigration.

      Easy to pass the buck here. But the fact is, the government created
      the problem by not enforcing their own policies from the very
      beginning. Now entire lives hang in the balance and the family is
      being unfairly maligned.

      > I’m sure the elder daughter can get an education visa on her own
      to come back to Japan after her return to Iran

      I simply can’t believe it’ll be that easy.

      > Children the world over suffer because of the idiocy of their own
      parents. This is nothing new.

      In any event, children should not be punishable for the crimes of
      their parents.

      Best,
      Matt Dioguardi

    3. debito Says:

      From: Scott Hards
      Subject: Re: [Community] Government tells Iranian family to get out of Japan
      Date: December 10, 2006 1:40:01 PM JST
      To: communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com

      Matt,

      Thanks for your thought-provoking post. At its core, your argument is that these folks should be allowed to stay because Japan’s immigration enforcement has been lax, and thereby it’s Japan’s fault that they’re here illegally, and not their own.

      Frankly, I don’t think we could ever reach a consensus on this because your view reflects a fundamentally different perspective on law, order and society’s rules than I have. Would you argue that a heroin addict should be allowed to continue to shoot up because it was lax drug enforcement policies that allowed the product to be available to him in the first place? To my view, that’s precisely the same logic you’re using to argue that this family should be allowed to stay here.

      Overall, I cannot accept your suggestion that Japanese immigration policy, as a conscious if unpublicized act, ever willfully held a policy of encouraging overstays. I’d need some evidence of that, but if you could find any, I’d be likely to significantly alter my viewpoint on this.

      Let me address some of your specific points:

      American took in 280,000 people. Europe took in 170,000…Now, during the time that America and Europe were admitting incredibly large numbers of political refugees, what was Japan doing?

      Being able to set one’s own immigration policies is at the core of what defines a nation state. Simply because Japan’s policy may have been different from Europe and the USA doesn’t make Japan’s policy bad, per se.

      However, to soften the criticism, Japan’s *obvious* honne policy was
      to allow Iranians to come over on a tourist visa, and then *ignore*
      them when they overstayed the visa. There was a clear policy that was
      never put on paper of *allowing* Iranians to stay in Japan.

      This is the part I’m going to need documentation on. Or at least more powerful arguments. What, specifically, was to be gained that was so precious? Oil imports? What criticism would have been so negative for Japan that it made sense to allow the country to be flooded with illegals?

      The picture you want to paint here of an Iranian family that slyly
      escaped detection all these years, simply does not match up to the
      reality. Their children attended schools, and the police inevitably
      knew who they were.

      You’re confusing the job of Immigration with the police. While the police can work as the enforcement arm of Immigration, unless they have a specific reason to suspect something, they don’t (usually) just start investigating foreigners because they’re foreigners.

      So there was a policy in place to accept these workers. Note it would
      have looked terrible for Japan to have suddenly deported the 32,000
      Iranians who by 1992 were living, technically illegal, in Japan. So,
      nothing was done.

      Again, documentation, please. “Looked terrible” to who? And what consequences of “looking terrible” would have been so horrible that Japan decided they had better let them stay? To my eye, Japan has a history of making decisions that don’t look good to the outside world.

      Allow me to counter-argue that the reason for this was not any government policy, formal or informal, to allow illegals to stay, but simply the result of a misguided and naive policy (allowing Iranians in without visas) that had to be enforced by an agency completely incapable of meeting the challenge.

      …suddenly its decided that Japan doesn’t want
      these *illegal* immigrants after all, so randomly some of them are
      being rounded up (inevitably the more honest ones who are easy to
      catch) and sent to Iran.

      A lot of illegals are being rounded up these days, and it’s not just Iranians. That the ones who are “easy to catch” are being caught first does not strike me in the least bit as being unfair.

      Look, why is it you think they some how *belong* in Iran? Because
      they are ethnic Iranian in someway?

      The fact that they’re Iranian does tend to make me mentally link them to Iran, yes. But I don’t think they belong in Iran, per se. I just think they don’t have any right to be in Japan, and that the Japanese government is completely within its rights as a sovereign nation to expel them.

      Japan had *every* opportunity to send these people to Iran years ago
      when they first came and did *nothing*.

      Nothing regarding this family, yes, but their slipping through the system is not the same as actively allowing their residence. Are you suggesting that at the time Japan had *no* enforcement of immigration violations of any kind? Again, I see an inept, understaffed agency, but not a conscious policy of allowing illegals to stay.

      Note that over the
      many years this family was in Japan, Iran simply had no control over
      them. However, Japan did. So which government should be held
      accountable?

      Neither. The *family* is responsible (or at least the father), for knowingly breaking Immigration law all these years without regard to the potential consequences. It’s not like these laws are new. He knew what he was doing.

      for no other crime is a person deported. These people live here
      and function like anyone else in the community. Has it ever occurred
      to you, that yes, while maybe they should be punished, that the
      punishment doesn’t fit the crime?

      What punishment? Nobody’s going to prison, or being fined here. They’re simply being told to go back to their home country. That’s akin to a speeder who is caught (sorry, I drive on the expressway almost every day, and these traffic analogies come quickly) simply being told to drive under the limit, i.e., obey the law.

      Certainly this means upheaval in their lives, but their basic human freedoms are not being removed. If Iran is such a hellhole that going there at all amounts to “punishment” than they can re-emigrate to another country later, hopefully legally this time.

      Easy to pass the buck here. But the fact is, the government created
      the problem by not enforcing their own policies from the very
      beginning.

      No, the father created the problem by raising a family as an illegal immigrant. Again, Matt, on this or any other issue, you’ll never convince me that a law enforcement agency that cannot keep up — and not the criminal carrying out the wrongdoing — is at primary fault. Not getting caught doesn’t make it legal, or acceptable.


      Scott T. Hards
      Tochigi, Japan

    4. debito Says:

      From: Matt Dioguardi
      Subject: Re: [Community] Government tells Iranian family to get out of Japan
      Date: December 11, 2006 11:03:45 PM JST
      To: communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com

      On Dec 10, 2006, at 1:40 PM, Scott T. Hards wrote:

      Matt,

      Thanks for your thought-provoking post. At its core, your argument
      is that these folks should be allowed to stay because Japan’s
      immigration enforcement has been lax, and thereby it’s Japan’s
      fault that they’re here illegally, and not their own.

      Scott,

      This is not my opinion. I believe that Japan does not have a visa
      over stayer problem, but instead had a *de facto* guest worker
      program. I think that the people in this program have fundamental
      rights and that these rights are being violated.

      If you don’t believe this is the case, then I encourage you to read
      an essay I put in this forum’s files section over a year ago.
      See (cut and paste):
      http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/QEh9RWDJ8uQngx83fZtxUYBiF96SyPgM085eByd1lj5jT6d2SCG6WcdyLlPSb7CjQ5gDsIQK5bCcL4L2I_I7G0L2JF16WG4we18L/immigration.doc

      The essay appears in a book entitled _Controlling Immigration: A
      Global Perspective_. The essay was written by one of the books
      editors, Wayne A. Cornelius.

      http://polisci.ucsd.edu/faculty/cornelius.htm

      The title of the essay is:
      “Japan: The Illusion of Immigration Control”

      The essay is followed by commentary from another contributor to the book.

      The essay argues and in my opinion effectively demonstrates the
      following points:
      1. Illegal laborers are generally left alone unless they turn
      themselves in or cause trouble.

      2. There is clear awareness of what’s going on by government
      officials on all levels ranging from the police at the local koban,
      to the officials in city hall, to the higher level government
      officials who aren’t pushing for any reforms of *real* significance.
      (Or at least not executing the policies they have available to them
      in such a way to create real reform.)

      3. The reason for the above is because of the recognition of the
      economic need for the labor.

      Note that this essay was written in 1994. However, I don’t see any of
      the dynamics as changing. I do know there was some changes in the
      immigration bill a few years back. But I think the biggest change has
      really been the prolonged recession, at which point Japan became less
      attractive because the moribund economy. I expect that once the
      economy fully recovers, all the same dynamics will come back into
      place and the situation will be even worse than it was at its
      previous peak, probably around 1992.

      I look at it like this. Japan needs someone to come in and do the 3K
      work no one else will do. Policy makers don’t really want to address
      the immigration issue directly and up front, because that would mean
      doing in a way in which all the world is watching and scrutinizing
      the process. Frankly, I think policy makers are really scared of
      this. Their scared of what they might have to offer the immigrants
      who come here in terms of basic human rights. They’re scared that
      once they let them in, *legally*, they might not be able to get rid
      of them later.

      So instead, the unofficial policy is to go easy on the illegals, and
      in fact, on many local levels actually provides financial and health
      aid (incentive) for them and even educate their children. However, as
      the government has never formally admitted that these people are
      allowed in Japan, it can throw them out on a whim. Isn’t that the
      perfect set up for a xenophobic government?

      Note, I’m not a conspiracy theories here. My opinions are not at all
      far from international experts on these issues who have studied this
      problem. After the essay which I’ve put in the archives, there’s a
      short commentary by Keiko Yamanaka

      http://unjobs.org/authors/yamanaka-keiko Her penultimate sentence is:

      “”[Japan] can no longer dismiss its de facto guestworker program as
      an “overstayer” problem.”

      She is saying (albeit in 1994) that Japan has a de facto guest worker
      program, not I.

      Frankly, I don’t think we could ever reach a consensus on this
      because your view reflects a fundamentally different perspective on
      law, order and society’s rules than I have.

      This is probably much less true than you realize. To a certain extent
      I believe the law is the law. However, the law rests on the
      constitution, the constitution rests on moral justice. (Or if you
      want fundamental human rights.) Clearly the treatment of these
      supposed illegal workers is not just.

      Would you argue that a heroin addict should be allowed to continue
      to shoot up because it was lax drug enforcement policies that
      allowed the product to be available to him in the first place?

      Now, I could be incorrect, but its my understanding the gambling at
      Pachinko parlors is illegal, right? At least, even Wikipedia states:
      “Such pseudo-cash gambling is theoretically illegal but from the
      sheer number of pachinko parlors in Japan it is clear that the
      activity is at least tacitly tolerated by the authorities.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachinko

      So if you looked in your newspaper tomorrow morning and saw that the
      police had randomly selected a few parlors, raided them, and arrested
      some of the gamblers? What would be your reaction?

      There’s a *de facto* policy in place as far as Pachinko goes, and I
      think this would be outrageously unfair.

      Another example that comes to my mind is when various states try to
      control the economy and almost always cause a black market to spring
      up in goods. The government can’t do anything it pleases just because
      it’s the government. When the government cease to act responsibly, as
      they are in the case of the *de facto* guest worker program now
      functioning in Japan, they need at the very least to be called on it.

      To my view, that’s precisely the same logic you’re using to argue
      that this family should be allowed to stay here.

      Overall, I cannot accept your suggestion that Japanese immigration
      policy, as a conscious if unpublicized act, ever willfully held a
      policy of encouraging overstays. I’d need some evidence of that,
      but if you could find any, I’d be likely to significantly alter my
      viewpoint on this.

      A quote from the essay:
      “Further encouragement is provided by local governments that continue
      to provide basic social services to foreign workers, often regardless
      of legal status, 54 [footnote 54: In the 1993 and 1994 fiscal years,
      prefectural governments in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Gunma, and
      Kanagawa all adopted policies of helping to pay the medical bills of
      foreign workers, on “humanitarian” grounds. The Tokyo government’s
      plan covers up to 70 percent of such workers’ medical expenses
      ( Mainichi Daily News 1994c). Some towns in these prefectures having
      large foreign-worker populations maintain considerably more elaborate
      social support systems (see, for example, Asahi Evening News 1994).]
      and even by local-level Immigration Bureau officials who in some
      areas have begun granting residence permits to illegal immigrants who
      have married Japanese nationals.”

      They were providing medical service for the illegal workers. About
      180 degrees opposite what you would expect if they were furtive
      criminals evading the authorities. This can only function as
      enticement form more illegals to come. Ands its the government that’s
      doing it.

      Also note:
      “Local police stations in every Japanese neighborhood keep close tabs
      on residents within their jurisdictions. Presumably they have the
      knowledge and capability to round up virtually every foreigner living
      illegally in their neighborhood and deliver them to the immigration
      authorities for deportation. Instead, local police as well as
      Immigration Bureau agents operate almost entirely on the basis of
      specific complaints lodged by a neighbor or someone else against an
      illegal foreign resident. “They are far too busy doing other things
      to bother with foreign workers,” one informant told me. In some
      cases, the authorities merely “apprehend” illegals who turn
      themselves in.”

      I think most people are aware of just how tuned in the local koban is
      in Japan. They literally visit new people when the move in. I don’t
      doubt for a minute that they know who the illegals are but don’t care.

      Let me address some of your specific points:

      >>American took in 280,000 people. Europe took in 170,000…Now,
      during the time that America and Europe were admitting
      incredibly large numbers of political refugees, what was Japan doing?

      In 1981 Japan signed U.N. Protocol Relating to the Status of
      Refugees, therefore they have an obligation to take in refugees.

      I encourage to read up on this here:

      http://home.att.net/~steve.bailey2/japanimmigwordpad.html#section2

      >>The picture you want to paint here of an Iranian family that slyly
      escaped detection all these years, simply does not match up to the
      reality. Their children attended schools, and the police inevitably
      knew who they were.

      You’re confusing the job of Immigration with the police. While the
      police can work as the enforcement arm of Immigration, unless they
      have a specific reason to suspect something, they don’t (usually)
      just start investigating foreigners because they’re foreigners.

      My claim is that the police already know. This claim is consistent
      with the reputation the Japanese police have for knowing everything
      that goes on in their area. And it is also consistent with the
      information contained in the essay I’ve been referring to. There’s no
      need for invasion of privacy.

      Honestly, I’ve been told by people I know, where and what places
      illegals are working. You might write this off as merely rumors, but
      I doubt that this is the case. As best I can tell, many people in the
      community understand and are complicit.

      >>Japan had *every* opportunity to send these people to Iran years ago
      when they first came and did *nothing*.

      Nothing regarding this family, yes, but their slipping through the
      system is not the same as actively allowing their residence. Are
      you suggesting that at the time Japan had *no* enforcement of
      immigration violations of any kind? Again, I see an inept,
      understaffed agency, but not a conscious policy of allowing
      illegals to stay.

      It’s clear that in Gunma illegal immigrants were actually getting aid
      from the city government.

      The essay even sites the case of a Philippine who turns himself in:
      “A book written by a former illegal immigrant in Japan from the
      Philippines describes how he finally surrendered to the authorities,
      not out of fear of capture, but for personal and family reasons. He
      describes his interrogation by the local official to whom he turned
      himself in. The nonthreatening official already knows just about
      everything about the immigrant’s life and that of many of his
      friends, and produces a detailed map of the neighborhood showing
      where all the foreigners live. The illegal immigrant leaves the
      Enforcement Division without being detained. He is allowed to go home
      and return to his job at a construction site, while bureaucrats do
      the paperwork needed for his deportation. Returning several days
      later, he receives his completed papers from an immigration officer,
      who informs him that he would be free to return to Japan, legally, in
      a year’s time.”

      I’m sure that trouble makers are rounded up quickly. I’m also sure
      that if a particular area becomes a political liability its also
      cleaned up quickly. However, I can’t see any signs of a systematized
      process to really end the influx of labor.

      >>Note that over the
      many years this family was in Japan, Iran simply had no control over
      them. However, Japan did. So which government should be held
      accountable?

      Neither. The *family* is responsible (or at least the father), for
      knowingly breaking Immigration law all these years without regard
      to the potential consequences. It’s not like these laws are new.
      He knew what he was doing.

      I don’t regard him as being any more guilty than a person who gambles
      at the local Pachinko parlor on the week-end. It’s simply unfair to
      regard such behavior as criminal when its so obviously accepted by
      those who are suppose to be doing the enforcing.

      Best,
      Matt Dioguardi

    5. debito Says:

      From: Matt Dioguardi
      Subject: Re: [Community] Government tells Iranian family to get out of Japan
      Date: December 11, 2006 11:34:18 PM JST
      To: communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com

      On Dec 10, 2006, at 1:40 PM, Scott T. Hards wrote:
      A lot of illegals are being rounded up these days, and it’s not
      just Iranians. That the ones who are “easy to catch” are being
      caught first does not strike me in the least bit as being unfair.

      I should have included this in my last email. Sorry. Unless it seems
      really important, or is a response to a *direct* question, I don’t
      intend to post on this again.

      Anyway, some good information (in Japanese) about the family in
      question can be found here:

      http://www.jca.apc.org/apfs/index.html

      Go to the news and topics section.

      Now, it’ll be wonderful if someone with better Japanese than I checks
      my facts here and corrects my errors, but here’s how I understand
      what happened. (I’m pretty sure there are errors here, having not had
      time to thoroughly study the relevant information. So if possible
      please get the info first hand, and don’t trust what you read here.)

      1. Japan was granting amnesty to several immigrant families if it
      seemed that sending their children back would cause undue hardship on
      the children.

      2. At the encouragement of an organization in 1999, Mr. Khalil turned
      himself in and requested amnesty for his family. He noted that he had
      two daughters, one of them in the sixth grade and soon to be starting
      junior high school. He said it would present undue hardships for them
      if they had to readjust to Iran.

      3. He was denied, arrested, and then the process began for his
      deportation.

      4. A legal battle ensued, in which it was learned that there was a
      policy being put in practice but *never* made explicit, in which
      amnesty was being granted to families if they had a child that had
      been in Japan more than 10 years and was attending at least junior
      high school.

      5. The upshot here being that if Mr. Khalil had waited only about six
      months more, he would have been granted amnesty. Yet, as the policy
      was a secret he had no way of knowing this.

      6. After various court battles (and even the collection of 3000
      signatures of support for Mr. Khalil), the Supreme Court decided
      nearly eight years after Mr. Khalil first requested amnesty, to send
      he and his family back to Iran. The judge with perhaps unintentional
      irony said something like, “the law’s the law and we can’t let people
      think it’s okay to break it. That trumps human rights.” Okay, he
      didn’t really say that. But something like that. I really don’t think
      I understand what the judge’s point was anyway. As the constitution
      is based on the concept of fundamental rights, and all laws follow
      from the constitution, it seems human rights should in fact take
      precedence, so the judge’s statement left me a little confused.

      I really would like some corrections here.

      Also, there’s an interesting editorial by by Shirzad Azad:
      http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_19202.shtml

      Here’s one helpful quote:
      “Special permission to stay in Japan has been given since 2000 for
      people who overstay their visas in Japan if their children are deemed
      accustomed to Japan and would have problems adjusting to life in the
      home country. Contrary to such precedents, Justice Minister Jinen
      Nagase showed a negative stance last week toward the application and
      proclaimed at a news conference he would not side with the idea that
      the law may be violated if there are humanitarian or human rights
      reasons.”

      Best,
      Matt Dioguardi

    6. debito Says:

      UPDATE DEC 23, 2006:

      From: Matt Dioguardi
      Subject: Re: [Community] Government tells Iranian family to get out of Japan
      Date: December 23, 2006 8:23:08 PM JST

      I wanted to correct some factual errors I made regarding the Amine
      family case.

      First, I want to note the following link:
      http://www.jca.apc.org/apfs/event/event20061127.htm

      At that link, there is a good description of the events, and also a
      request to fax the Justice Department on behalf of the Amine family,
      and especially Maryam the oldest daughter. This request reads:

      Japanese:
      どうか法務省へ「アミネさん一家に在留特別許可を
      認めてください。マリアムちゃんの夢をこわさない
      でください!」という内容のFAXをお送りくださ
      い。18歳の娘の人生を救うためにご協力ください!
      (法務省FAX番号:03-3592-7393)

      English (my translation):
      Please fax the justice department. Include in your fax this message.
      “Please grant the Amine family permission to stay in Japan. Please
      don’t destroy Maryam’s dream!” Help save this young girls life!

      Justice Department Fax: 03-3592-7393

      This was prior to the recent decision of the Justice Ministry to give
      the family until January 8th (?). However, I doubt any harm can come
      from faxing the Justice department now.

      Now I’m going to correct some errors, I made in my last post:

      On Dec 11, 2006, at 11:34 PM, Matthew Dioguardi wrote:

      (cut opening)

      1. Japan was granting amnesty to several immigrant families if it
      seemed that sending their children back would cause undue hardship on
      the children.

      It does seem to be the case that Japan has granted permission to stay
      to people who have overstayed their visa on account of their
      children. But I don’t have any statistics on this. In the future I
      will try to get some information on this. There are UN treaties
      related to this issue, and at some point I’ll try to give details on
      this.

      2. At the encouragement of an organization in 1999, Mr. Khalil turned
      himself in and requested amnesty for his family. He noted that he had
      two daughters, one of them in the sixth grade and soon to be starting
      junior high school. He said it would present undue hardships for them
      if they had to readjust to Iran.

      Mr. Khalil Amine could have continued on indefinitely without ever
      being “caught.” The local city officials knew him, and as he ran a
      used car lot, he was well received in the community where he lived.
      He had an outstanding reputation. Note, he had an alien registration
      card. You can’t get any more noticed than that.

      At some point in the late 1990’s he got involved with a group called
      Asian Peoples Friendship Society. The society had gathered about 50
      people, and it was their goal to go as a group and petition the
      government for permission to stay. The society and its lawyers made
      clear this was a risky move, as all petitioners could be detained and
      then deported. The 50 members dwindled to 23 (five families and two
      individuals.)

      While the 23 individuals could have probably continued on with their
      lives as they were, for various reasons they both wanted and thought
      they deserved legitimacy. They were making a political statement of
      sorts, and hoping by their actions they could help others in similar
      situations.

      It is not clear to me how many were accepted. However, I am
      *guessing* that *all* got permission to stay in the country *except*
      the Amine family. See the document linked above and read it yourself.
      It doesn’t seem clear to me on this point.

      3. He was denied, arrested, and then the process began for his
      deportation.

      I’m not sure what the specific procedure was, but the Amine family
      was not given any type of amnesty. They were on the road to being
      deported. However, they were granted permission to stay *only* so as
      to appeal the decision of the government. (Often this isn’t the case,
      so the lawyers must have been ready.)

      4. A legal battle ensued, in which it was learned that there was a
      policy being put in practice but *never* made explicit, in which
      amnesty was being granted to families if they had a child that had
      been in Japan more than 10 years and was attending at least junior
      high school.”

      I am not clear if the government has *ever* specified its policies in
      regards to this. What the Asian Peoples Friendship Society did was to
      compare the Amine family situation with those who were accepted. They
      then guessed at what the criteria must have been.

      For example the Amine family had an eleven year old daughter, so did
      another Iranian family that was granted permission. What was the
      difference? The Amines’ daughter was in elementary school, the other
      family’s daughter was in junior high school. Also, Mr. Amine had been
      in Japan nine years and a number of months, others accepted had been
      in Japan over 10 years.

      So it looks like Mr. Amine would have been accepted had he only
      waited months before turning himself in.

      5. The upshot here being that if Mr. Khalil had waited only about six
      months more, he would have been granted amnesty. Yet, as the policy
      was a secret he had no way of knowing this.

      6. After various court battles (and even the collection of 3000
      signatures of support for Mr. Khalil), the Supreme Court decided
      nearly eight years after Mr. Khalil first requested amnesty, to send
      he and his family back to Iran. The judge with perhaps unintentional
      irony said something like, “the law’s the law and we can’t let people
      think it’s okay to break it. That trumps human rights.” Okay, he
      didn’t really say that. But something like that. I really don’t think
      I understand what the judge’s point was anyway. As the constitution
      is based on the concept of fundamental rights, and all laws follow
      from the constitution, it seems human rights should in fact take
      precedence, so the judges statement left me a little confused.”

      This is incorrect. The quote I was looking at was a quote by the
      Minister of Justice. I have read the quote more than once and still
      find it hard to understand. It sounds very much like a politician
      hedging all sides of every possible argument and in the end really
      saying nothing at all.

      So much for my corrections. Now I want to add a little.

      My understanding is that the purpose of granting people the
      permission to stay has entirely to do with the daughters (the
      children). If they’ve become acclimatized to Japan then its regarded
      as cruel to force them to return to their home country. (In this case
      they’ll have to cover up their skin, they won’t be able to go out
      alone, they don’t speak the country’s language, they’ll probably have
      to practice Islam, etc)

      It is also regarded an wrong to break up families in this way. (All
      of this is related to various UN treaties and so on.)

      The question *was* this, should the family have been granted
      permission to stay? The Supreme Court seems to have said, the
      Ministry has jurisdiction, so their original decision should hold.
      (I’m not clear on what the Court stated. I think something like, it’s
      not the responsibility of a court to legislate from the bench. The
      ministry’s decision stands.)

      Okay, fine. The original decision should hold. No problem.

      Anyway, let’s put that all behind us. How about *now*? Even if the
      family didn’t meet the (mysterious) criteria six years ago, then
      *surely* they must meet it now?

      It’s as if the Justice Ministry wants to say, “no, because they only
      stayed in Japan so they could appeal their case. Now that the appeal
      is over they have to go.”

      This might sound plausible, but again, the issue is about the
      daughters, *not* the parents. It shouldn’t matter why the parents
      stayed, the fact is they did, and now it will hurt the daughters to
      send them back.

      Also, note that, at this point, there is no fear of precedence
      setting, because the precedence has *already* been set.

      There’s no clear barrier to granting the family permission to stay.

      The Ministry of Justice could *easily* give the family permission to
      stay if it desired to.

      There’s no clear logic behind the decision to send the family back.
      Some people have suggested political problems with Iran. Maybe that’s
      it. But it’s really disconcerting.

      Best,
      Matt Dioguardi

    7. Japan in amber » Blog Archive » Help the Amine Family, an Iranian-Japanese family being evicted from their home by the Ministry of Justice Says:

      […] Further comments from me were posted here. […]

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