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    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on June 27th, 2011

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    Hi Blog. It’s that time of the year again, when the GOJ has its monthlong campaign to enlist the general public in spotting illegal aliens. Just to make sure that anyone can feel empowered to do Immigration’s job to spot check a NJ’s Gaijin Card (when, according to the Gaitouhou, only officials given policing powers by the MOJ are empowered to demand this form of ID), here we have a poster in a public place, issued by Tokyo Metro, with all sorts of cutesy NJ happily complying with the rigmarole. After all, the small print notes that that these NJ are causing “all kinds of problems” (well, at least they’re being less demonized this time; making them well dressed and cute was a nice touch). And also after all, the slogan is “ru-ru o mamotte kokusaika” (internationalization done by the rules); which is fine, except it would be nice if the police followed their own rules regarding enforcement of Gaijin Card checks. Poster follows, courtesy of MMT and here, received June 23, 2011.  Arudou Debito

    38 Responses to “2011’s annual GOJ Spot the Illegal Alien campaign enlists Tokyo Metro, deputizes general public with posters of cute and compliant NJ”

    1. Alex Says:

      We should have a “report a bad cop” month, where we enlist the public’s help in reporting police officers who stop people for no reason (the law requires a reason), refusing to show police ID, or forcing people to consent to warrant-less searches.

      How about it? Let’s all see if we can file at least 1 complaint against a police officer. The public deserves a better police force.

    2. Matt Says:

      I would really like to know how they arrive at the number of 90,000 to 100,000 illegals. Probably something not much beyond, “Hey, what’s a number big enough for people to take notice?”,”hmmm, dunno. 100,000?”, “Thanks”.

      Oh, and where’s the cartoon evil Japanese guy knowingly employing illegals? Why aren’t they appealing to Japanese to rat out these bad apples?

    3. Andrew Says:

      I don’t think the poster is asking the general public to randomly ask foreigners for their Alien Registration Card. The poster specifically says 外国人雇用の際にはご確認を、to check (this particular part of the card) “when hiring a foreigner.” This is a very specific situation, and certainly an employer can (and should) make sure they can legally hire you.

    4. Eric Says:

      Just goes to show how little they take the issue of illegal aliens in Japan. I mean, if they really want the issue of hiring illegal aliens to be taken seriously, shouldn’t they have a pic of stereotypical construction company presidents, restaurant owners, etc…? After all, aren’t they breaking the law, too?

    5. HO Says:

      Matt, Incoming Aliens – Outgoing Aliens – Aliens with Valid Visa = Estimated Ilegal Aliens.
      This estimation is possible since it is very hard to come to Japan without going through immigration.

    6. adam Says:

      I love the “follow the rules” script – whatever country it’s used in, it usually used to beat someone down. Never is the question of the actual value of the rules themselves brought up.

      Whenever “illegal aliens” are brought up, I have to wonder about why they aren’t allowed to live in whatever country they’ve moved to, and why their visa status is an issue. The vast majority of people who overstay a visa are not plotting any evil or doing any harm, and in fact are much more likely to be the victims of criminals rather than criminals themselves.

      On the other hand, at least it’s not the famous Ibaraki posters of the police in paramilitary gear swarming some foreigner.

    7. Doug Says:

      Just my take but I have to agree with Andrew on this one. I think the poster is asking employeers to conduct reasonable due diligence when hiring. I also feel this poster is actually a vast improvement over past campaigns.

      Of course there are still issues with racism and discrimination in Japan (as there is with all places) and there are areas for improvement, but as an employer I actually do “follow the rules” on this issue and I do not take offense to this one. Cheers

      – It’s one thing to have this poster up at an Immigration office where potential employers are likely to take notice as they sponsor NJ visas. It’s another to have it up in subway stations making the impression of “they walk among us”.

      It’s a matter of exposure and message targeting. Targeting everyone on a transportation system like this (chances are that very few people amongst the millions on their daily commute are employers of NJ) is overdoing it. Portraying NJ this time as cute and non-threatening or not, it still raises a concern of public message, that NJ can and should be an object of suspicion.

      How about the poster, instead of talking about the problems that NJ allegedly create, also mention the labor abuses that undocumented NJ often face as they fall through the cracks of legal protections? It’s also a fact that plenty of employers, particularly the human traffickers, WANT the illegals because they’re more exploitable. Nope. Basically according to this poster it’s the NJ who are causing the problem, so it’s the NJ who get threatened with exposure, not the employers.

      I agree, better message than before, but still missing the target.

    8. Mark in Kanto Says:

      Hey, if you want your cute “typical gaijin” on the poster, where is the one that looks Asian?

    9. Maxabillion Slartibartfast Says:

      >Hey, if you want your cute “typical gaijin” on the poster, where is the one that looks Asian?
      I believe she’s the second one from the left.

      I agree with Debito on this one; I see Andrew’s and Doug’s point, but if the purpose of this campaign is to warn employers about their hiring practices, posters in the metro stations are not a very appropriate or effective place to hang the posters.

    10. mark in kanto Says:

      Oh, I see. I guess I forgot again that even as a stereotype Chinese, Korean, Philippine, Indian, and other Asian illegal aliens all have brown hair.

    11. AORI-Steve Says:

      “It’s one thing to have this poster up at an Immigration office where potential employers are likely to take notice as they sponsor NJ visas.”

      Irrelevant.

      This poster targets employers that are hiring people already in Japan with a visa and an ARC. That is, employers who don’t set foot inside immigration because they have no need to sponsor NJ for visas. Limiting these posters to immigration would be pointless.

      I agree with Andrew and Doug and don’t see anything dreadfully wrong with this poster.

    12. MD Says:

      Imagine a sign on the New York subway “all those black people and arabs and asians and hispanics… are you sure they’re not illegal aliens? Watch out when hiring them!”

      I don’t think it would be acceptable.

    13. Jim Di Griz Says:

      The way I see it, the problem with this poster (it’s poor location choice, and all the ambiguities of the depictions of the characters in it) is symptomatic of Japans total failure to effectively protect NJ from exploitation in ‘the water trade’, and at the same time, go for the easy target; it isn’t so much about “doing something efficiently” as it is “being seen doing something”. Japanese police? Keystone cops. Not much chance of them actually charging employers who are breaking the law.

    14. Colin Says:

      Shouldn`t the public be more concerned with all the illegal operating procedures (with foreigners)being committed by Japanese companies on a regular basis? I think the illigal alien issue is just one piece of the pie.

    15. Doug Says:

      Debito-san

      Regarding your reply, you do have some points and they are well taken. However, I do not believe that the intent of the posters is anything like the anonymous reporting of suspicious foreigners (of years gone by) or anything like that. I think it is a genuine intention to ensure the appropriate rules on hiring are followed. And now is a good time to do that.

      With that in mind your suggestion of changing the location of the posters or even maybe sending these posters as flyers to businesses directly may be more appropriate. I also acknowledge there are abuses in the trainee program and have actually met someone that was part of the program and subsequently returned to SE Asia.

      One thing I have noticed after the earthquake (with the exodus of many folks and obvious lack of tourists coming) is I have been actually treated MUCH, MUCH better and have been asked repeatedly and even thanked for being in Japan – on multiple occasions! Quite interesting.

      Wondering if other readers have experienced the same (slightly off topic I know).

      I still believe things have been getting better over the years for foreigners. Yeah I know there are problems but things do seem to be getting better from my own perspective. Cheers

      – Thanks Doug. If you would like to find out if other readers have experienced the same, please give me a writeup on this of what you’ve seen (something to chum the waters of discussion) in blog post style and send it to me at debito@debito.org. I’m happy to offer optimism here wherever possible, but this time it’s best as a separate blog post.

    16. steve Says:

      Agree with Colin. Should Japan be more concerned with the illegal activities of Japanese companies such as…oh let’s say, TEPCO. This single company has almost single-handedly destroyed the entire nation. The full effects of what has transpired (and still ongoing) have yet to reverberate through the nation.

      Priorities, priorities. Idiots.

    17. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @AORI-Steve:
      >This poster targets employers that are hiring people already in Japan with a visa and an ARC. That is, employers who don’t set foot inside immigration because they have no need to sponsor NJ for visas

      I don’t see that way. The MOJ is unlikely to punish Japanese employers for hiring ‘illegal’ aliens/immigrants in the first place. As the Japanese message under the caption shows, the MOJ’s target is the NJ. Indeed, the MOJ’s requirement of legal documentation is issued to the NJ–not the employers who hire them. And how could we expect the MOJ to crack down on illegal employment of NJs without any law to punish unethical employers for labor exploitation?

    18. AJ Says:

      Offensive on so many levels.

      Reminds me of the day many years ago now my teenage student recounted the police’s visit to his high school. “Beware of Americans. They’re dangerous and they have guns.”

      Imagine what they say about the foreigners they don’t like?

      A kid at an elementary school wore a shirt that said in english script recently, “don’t trust anyone over 40.” If only he knew. These bureaucrats wantonly waste tax dollars peddling fear while the fiddle as Fukushima burns.

    19. ABC Says:

      There is another side to this.

      It’s one of unconscious perceptions. The gaijin are the other and if not controlled, watched over, taught proper manners, they will run amok.

      If you look at the manner posters, you know, not sprawling on seats, take your backpack off, etc. are also in English but not in any other foreign language. Considering that the number of native English speaking NJ using the subway is infinitesimal compared to the number of everyone else on any given day, why bother.

      IMO one of the the reasons why the manner posters are not in Chinese and let’s say Portuguese, is because subliminally the writers are also blaming foreigners for ill-manners. Subliminally, as foreigners are ill-mannered, don’t understand wa, etc. they could cause a disproportionate amount of trouble. One of the messages is that, OK, Mr. Amerika-san may be the only one in the carriage and, strangely enough, may be the only one there with a vacant seat next to him despite the huge overcrowding, the drunks, the youths deafening themselves listening to their “J-pop” and the OLs sitting in the “silba seato” playing some sort of infantile game on their Nintendo silicon pacifier, but the gaijin is liable to break the rules and disturb the wa at any moment, so let’s make sure that we are watching them.

      To my regret, I’m only being half-joking about this.

    20. MMT Says:

      Just one thing I’d like to point out that hasn’t been mentioned; the campaign poster design may be new, but the slogan is not. I have kept several brochures from Japanese immigration offices over the years and can confirm that “Internationalization within the rules” stretches back to at least 2003, so it’s hardly something fresh that they came up with.

    21. Joe Says:

      @ABC
      “IMO one of the the reasons why the manner posters are not in Chinese and let’s say Portuguese, is because subliminally the writers are also blaming foreigners for ill-manners.”

      I don’t get what you’re trying to say. It sounds like you don’t think Chinese people or Brazilians/Portuguese are foreigners.

    22. Tony In Saitama Says:

      Loverilakkuma;

      >As the Japanese message under the caption shows, the MOJ’s >target is the NJ.

      Which message are you reading? The one that says “When you employ a foreigner please check.”
      ”外国人雇用の際にご確認を”

      That makes it clear that this poster is aimed at employers.

      – Pity the visuals don’t.

    23. Tony In Saitama Says:

      – Pity the visuals don’t.

      What the visuals say to me is, when a foreigner comes to you looking for a job, make sure that they are legally allowed to work, (because this is a legal requirement) and you can do this by checking this part of their ARC.

    24. Loverilakkuma Says:

      >Which message are you reading? The one that says “When you employ a foreigner please check.”

      No, not that one. It’s right below “2011 Anti-Illegal Foreign Workers Campaign.” These messages explaining the situation of “illegal foreign workers” are quite misleading because they unfairly depict NJs as those without giving a specific cause for their violation of status(i.e., entering in Japan with a fake passport, working at Japanese restaurant as a tourist or student visa).
      Moreover, as the visual clearly illustrates, producing ARC alone does not gives one a proof for work eligibility. You can’t work without an appropriate visa. Beware that you’re gonna be grilled and apprehended by the cops for the failure to produce ARC even if you are legally eligible to stay and work in Japan. Debito is correct. The visual contradicts with the captions and messages. What’s the point in appealing to ARC for employers??

    25. Bob Says:

      “Internationalization within the rules”

      I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. Isn’t the fact that the Ministry of Justice is promoting lawful immigration (with benign images of foreign workers smiling and noting that are happy to follow the fairly standard immigration requirement that workers are documented) something that we should be celebrating?

    26. Paul Says:

      I wonder why they are using 在留資格 (which means residency permit or status) as a basis for judging whether one is qualified to work in Japan or not. Are there not both 日本で働ける and 日本で働けない types of residency permit? Why would they be issuing an ARC to someone that said, “You don’t have permission to reside in Japan”? That subset must be very small. Isn’t the purpose of getting an ARC is that you do reside in Japan and need one? Has anyone seen an ARC that has such a marking on it?

      – I have. Some of them actually do say “No Residency Status”, if they are issued by the local jichitai, a practice the MOJ is trying to stamp out with the new centralized IC-Chipped ARCs. See http://www.debito.org/?p=3334

      Status of Residence is the standard term for “visa status” in Japan, and it is being correctly used here. See the opening chapter of HANDBOOK.

    27. Tony In Saitama Says:

      Loverilakkuma:
      >These messages explaining the situation of “illegal foreign workers” are quite misleading because they unfairly depict NJs as those without giving a specific cause for their violation of status(i.e., entering in Japan with a fake passport, working at Japanese restaurant as a tourist or student visa).

      The poster does not refer to, or depict, non Japanese in general. It specifically refers to 不法滞在者(Illegal entrants) and 不法就労する外国人.(Foreigners who work illegally).
      The specific cause for their violation of status os not relevant,
      Note also that it says that the existence of such foreigners causes problems, which is slightly less direct than saying that these foreigners cause the problems. (i.e part of the problems are with the employers.

      As regards the visuals, two points further to what I said yesterday:
      1. The picture shows four smiling, happy, and (I presume) legal foreigners, pointing out the fifth, who is not smiling because he does not have a valid visa to work.
      This sends the message that indeed there are legal foreigners who can work here, (and indeed, they are in the majority). I think this poster does a very good job of outlining the problem without making foreigners in general look like the (only) bad guys.

      2. As Debito will remember, a few years ago it wasn’t other foreigners on the posters pointing and laughing at another unfortunate foreigner, it was a SWAT team pinning one to the ground and pointing machine guns at him. (There is a link in the article that might be it, but it is not working at the moment.) Debito may berate them for being “cute and compliant”, but that is a much more positive image than has been used before, and that is, I think, progress in the right direction.

      >Moreover, as the visual clearly illustrates, producing ARC alone does not gives one a proof for work eligibility.

      I don’t think the visual indicates this at all, but you do have a point. Someone with a spouse, dependant, student or even permanent resident is not as clear cut as my old “Gijutsu” status used to be, but if someone presents an ARC with “資格なし” it is clear they cannot work. What this poster is trying to do is not get employers solely to rely on the ARC, but to at least be aware that there are different types of foreigner visa status and they should check out which one a person they are thinking of employing is holding.

      – Re Point 2): As you might bother to remember (I mentioned it in this very blog entry, @ Comment 7), I acknowledged this poster was an improvement over previous efforts. There is still room for improvement, I am arguing.

      As for your final paragraph, it’s clear by now you are reading far more into the poster than is there.

    28. Norik Says:

      I’m not sure how checking the visa status only can help prevent NJ from working illegaly. There are many other specifics besides the visa status only which must be taken in mind-like how many hours and where, and if they have special permit for work (part or full time), which is issued separately for the part timers.The poster doesn’t explain what kind of activities can be performed if in資格 it’s written 留学、短期滞在、家族滞在etc-can they work or not, because it is all case by case stuff-if you come sa a tourist on 短期滞在you aren’t allowed to work, as 短期滞在you can work up to 14h /week, as a foreign student up to 28h/w, but you also need special 資格外活動許可issued separately, and if you don’t have it you are working illegally, etc.So basically this poster here is absolutely uselless waste of paper and energy in this resourses challenged country.
      Actually, this document here is much more useful and it doesn’t battle illegal working NJs, it informs their potential employers of the best way to legally hire an NJ.
      http://www.moj.go.jp/content/000007272.pdf

      – Point taken. The number of NJ with zairyuu shikaku nashi on their ARC is miniscule. So it’s quite practically the search for the needle in the haystack. No matter. Feel free to check your foreigners. After all, according to the poster’s visuals, they’re happy to be carded!

    29. Loverilakkuma Says:

      >1. The picture shows four smiling, happy, and (I presume) legal foreigners, pointing out the fifth, who is not smiling because he does not have a valid visa to work.
      This sends the message that indeed there are legal foreigners who can work here, (and indeed, they are in the majority). I think this poster does a very good job of outlining the problem without making foreigners in general look like the (only) bad guys.
      Describing the workers with smiley faces upon the issue is exactly MOJ’s rhetorical strategy to mask their motives to stigmatize those who fall into the crack as illegal aliens–and extend their accusation to anyone who looks different. Again, the visual which articulates for the rhetorical role of ARC in an attempt to guarantee NJs rights to work through proper documentation is indeed missing the point. I would say it’s more like rhetorical deception. Smiley faces contradict with the reality of workers. The workers are NOT happy not because they are kept from being employed by employers, but because they are being watched and interrogated further by the legal and police enforcement! Does it make anyone happy in the reality of Japanese society? This irony is exactly what this poster brings to all of us, I think.

      >but that is a much more positive image than has been used before, and that is, I think, progress in the right direction.

      Positive visual images do not lead us to the conclusion that the rhetor (the MOJ) is changing their attitude toward the target (NJs). It could become rhetorical device to stigmatize the target. We already witness this through […] children’s book such as “Little Black Sambo.”

    30. Bob Says:

      “Positive visual images do not lead us to the conclusion that the rhetor (the MOJ) is changing their attitude toward the target (NJs).”

      But that is a totally non-falsifiable proposition! In order to allow your proposition to be tested, you would need to specify the conditions under which positive official images that explain the state’s relationship with a minority could not be interpreted as “masking” officials’ true antipathy towards foreigners. Because you don’t know for sure the intentions of those you accuse, proving that they are out to get foreigners by subtle means, as you assert, is impossible. All you have is some fancy socio-linguistic terminology (itself a form of rhetoric that I could claim with equal (un)justification is an attempt to “mask” the inadequacies of the “rhetor”), a feeling that “they” are out to get foreigners, and an unfounded claim that foreign “workers” are not happy.

    31. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      I’m not sure what to conclude from this poster. The optimist in me thinks that the MoJ just wants to make sure employers don’t mistakenly hire people who bring their alien cards in as proof that they can work, with the employer not noticing the 在留資格無し part.

      On the other hand, my cynical self doesn’t like this poster as it might encourage employers to demand employees’ alien cards when it’s in fact only the visa that the employers need to know about.

      The alien card is full of private and personal information that they don’t necessarily need to see. This includes your complete residential history since you first got the card, your relationship to the head of the household that you live in, and various numbers and landing dates. They might not need to know the addresses of every employer you’ve ever had since you got the card, or your home city in your country of citizenship, but those are right there on the ARC too.

      Protect your personal info and show your employer only the page in your passport with the appropriate visa stamped in it. There’s no reason for HR busybodies to get all the extra information that the ARC makes visible.

    32. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Bob:

      >In order to allow your proposition to be tested, you would need to specify the conditions under which positive official images that explain the state’s relationship with a minority could not be interpreted as “masking” officials’ true antipathy towards foreigners

      First off, I’m not a social scientist. I don’t see any reason to elaborate on what makes an authorizing body look good or bad by making the lines of hypotheses and statistics–at least on this issue. I made it very clear that the poster’s positive image is contradictory with the reality because ARC serves as the measurement of control and regulation. It puts all NJ undue constraints regardless of visa classification. Remember it is MOJ who gave police and legal enforcement the utmost powers to monitor NJ 24/7 since November 2007. As other commenters mention, ARC contains private information regarding your residency records. I’m getting more persuaded by the commentor (#32) regarding that it is work visa the employers have the responsibility to keep track of their employees’ status validity.

    33. Bystander Says:

      A friend of mine (permanent resident) was upset recently when a company asked him to provide xeroxed copies of his ARC in order to begin doing freelance copywriting work for them. I told him not to comply, but set them straight that he was a legal resident and therefore wasn’t required to show proof. He stood his ground, and they backed off with no further hassle. It’s easy for Japanese to misunderstand the law, so when the opportunity arises, we have the obligation to set them straight.

    34. Joe Says:

      @Bystander

      I might have got this whole thing upside down and backwards (wouldn’t be the first time), but I thought that the law requires the employer to obtain proof from the employee that s/he is legally entitled to work. Which makes for a strange situation: your friend isn’t obliged to show evidence of his legal resident status, but the company are obliged to be in possession of such evidence before they employ him. So if he’s working for them now, they (the company) are in breach of the law. He’s not, though. Bizarre.

    35. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      @Bystander

      I think they’re asking for copies of the ARC because it’s easier for them to just copy the info off the card and then submit it to Hello Work.

      Back when this got started a few years ago (2007?), I saw the actual papers that your company sends to the authorities. They contain blanks for the employee’s visa type and date of expiration, and there are no requirements that copies be attached.

      My company didn’t ask for copies of any cards or passport pages; I just told the personnel department what kind of visa I had and when it expires, and that was the end of it. (I might have given them a passport page to copy long ago when I first joined the firm, though.)

      Start by simply stating your visa type and its expiration date. The company can put that on the Hello Work papers, and if there’s a discrepancy, Hello Work will surely come aronud to notify them. If the company wants proof beforehand, go with the actual visa in the passport. That’s the real proof of permission to work — the ARC just copies the info from that page to begin with — and revealing it will give your company only the information they need, and no more.

    36. sendaiben Says:

      Yes, they have to check your status. In the past, employers have asked to copy my documents: I informed them it was not necessary, and that I refused to allow them to do so. After checking with Hello Work, they agreed that having me show them the documents was enough :)

      – This whole “copying” requirement is probably due to the NPA (not Immigration, although they are kissing cousins). When they started deputizing hotel staff for Gaijin Card checks from April 1, 2006 (but enforced from 2005), remember, they not only asked hotels to check all NJ Gaijin Cards at check-in (when the law states that only NJ without addresses in Japan were required), but also asked hotels to keep photocopies (which was not in the law at all). Then, of course, come 2007, the NPA decided to deputize Hello Work as well. And now the general public with these public poster campaigns. Policy creep.

    37. James Annan Says:

      We regularly get asked at work for photocopies of ARC and passport showing visa pages. I refuse. I understand that they are just doing it for the sake of bureaucratic box-ticking and convenience but it pisses me off no end that they flat-out lie and claim that the law requires this. Last time, I found the official advice which specifically warns against over-zealous action (at least that’s my interpretation) and they eventually admitted that they have no need of photocopies. To smooth things over, I let them make a note the date of visa expiry, which doesn’t seem too intrusive since they are the sponsor…

    38. Chris Says:

      As always… who benefits?
      The point of the ARC is to make sure you are paying a sizeable portion of your income to your local council, but if the existence of the card and hence your submission to become a taxpayer was never checked, nobody would get one. Sure you need the card for all kinds of things, but many of these are avoidable like getting a driver’s license etc. So more effort has to be made to check activities like having employment and walking down the street which are pretty hard to avoid.

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