Hi Blog. Thoughtful letter on a serious issue in the Japan Times Community Page again this week (Tuesday’s paper is always worth the cover price). Speaking of identity and possibilities of a “Rainbow Society” (which has become a discussion on issues of being “haafu” in Japan in the Comments Section of a recent blog post), one essential issue is the acknowledgement of “doubles” in terms of legal status: Dual Nationality. Excerpting from this week’s Hotline to Nagatacho. Arudou Debito
The Japan Times Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO
Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy
…What does Japan gain by, in effect, rejecting my children and thousands of other young dual citizens living in Japan and around the world, at the very moment when they come of age and are at last able to become productive members of society?
Best as I can figure, the only virtue of the “one citizenship fits all” rule is simplicity.
What does Japan lose by rejecting dual citizenship?
My daughters, for one thing (and that’s a big loss; I know, I know: oyabaka), along with many other repudiated young people whose capacity and willingness to contribute their talents, creativity, fluency in English and other languages, international experience, energy and human and financial capital to Japan as full-fledged members of society are suppressed, or snuffed out altogether, by continuing a short-sighted, anachronistic policy.
In an era of increasing global competition, a shrinking, aging and insular Japan needs all hands on deck. Japan should be actively recruiting these talented young people to come to Japan and lay down roots, not turning them away.
Some may contend that my daughters and others like them are still free to come to Japan as foreigners, procure visas and remain for as long as they like (or at least as long as they have a visa-qualifying job). But that’s a far cry from “being Japanese.”
It’s not just about avoiding the legal limits on what foreigners may do and how long they may stay in Japan. Citizens are more likely to be motivated to make the sacrifices, and take the risks necessary to improve society, such as through public service and entrepreneurial activity. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has often said, in a different context, that “no one in the history of the world has ever washed a rented car.” The same holds true here. Japan cannot repossess the title to the car — citizenship — from some of its people and fairly expect that those same people will still care enough to do what it takes to keep the car — Japan — in good working order or, better yet, to add some chrome and polish.
It is a well-known secret that the Japanese government does not actively enforce the citizenship selection rule. I was even told once — by a Japanese government official no less — that my kids should simply hold on to their Japanese passports after they reach 22 and renew them when they expire, without ever making an affirmative citizenship selection. Many people do just this. It’s the dual citizenship equivalent of the U.S. armed forces’ fading “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
This is a very Japanese approach, but it’s not a solution. It places all “shadow” dual citizens at risk of losing their Japanese nationality any time the Japanese government decides to change its current policy of benign neglect, or if a dual citizen trips up by presenting the wrong passport to the wrong immigration official at the wrong time. Long-term planning and commitment are impossible under these circumstances.
But, more importantly, this “winks and nods” policy of lax or non-enforcement sends precisely the wrong message. Instead of laying out the welcome mat, these young people are told to sneak in through the back door (and hope it’s not locked). Many won’t even try.
One wonders if the existing policy of denying permanent dual citizenship to people who possessed the status as children is motivated by a concern that altering it would lead to dual citizenship demands by others, such as ethnic Korean residents of Japan or Brazilians of Japanese descent. Rather than risk facing such demands, government officials might have concluded that it is “better to leave well enough alone.” However, allowing people who already have Japanese citizenship to keep it will not inevitably lead to more far-reaching changes to Japan’s Nationality Law.
Given its dire demographic outlook, perhaps Japan should open a dialogue on radical changes to its Nationality Law, such as a U.S.-style “birthright” giving citizenship to all people born on Japanese soil, an Israeli-style “Law of Return” allowing the ingathering of all ethnic Japanese everywhere in their ancestral homeland, or an Irish-style “Grandparent Rule” granting citizenship to anyone who can document having one Japanese grandparent. But even if Japan is not willing to open its door that widely, it should at least stop slamming the door on some of its own citizens shortly after they reach adulthood…
Full article at