Permanent Resident protests US Embassy’s inaction towards protecting human rights of own citizens


Morning Blog. Got this letter last night from a friend who’s gotten disgusted with the US Embassy’s inaction towards protecting the human rights of its citizens. Myself, I think the USG has long forgotten it’s primary duty to its taxpayers/citizens, and sees its main duty as selling weapons and maintaining military bases and regional interests. Even though it has plenty of wherewithal (especially vis-a-vis Japan) to take on issues that affect the NJ residents here under their purview. The Canadian Govt. does, what with the Murray Wood Case, for one example. They even commented personally during the Otaru Onsens Case. (The USG did comment on its Country Reports on Human Rights, which I appreciate very much, but it was essentially too little, too late) Here’s the letter. Debito in Sapporo


[Kyushu Permanent Resident, reproduced with permission and anonymized by] January 10, 2008

Dear U.S. Embassy,

I just finished reading your January newsletter. In it, like the previous two, you mentioned the new Japanese immigration control law without comment.

What I have not read in recent newsletters – what I and probably many other permanent-resident Americans in Japan are wondering – is what you have done to protest the new law. Regrettably, I have not heard a peep from the embassy regarding this discriminatory law. In case you don’t know, many permanent-resident Americans are upset about it.

I know you diplomats are exempt from the humiliating experience of having to be fingerprinted and photographed. But, what about those of us who have lived her many years (34 in my case), have been good, tax-paying, contributing residents? I am not talking about time or inconvenience. I am talking about being separated from Japanese spouse and kids upon return from abroad, singled out as a potential criminal or terrorist. This, in spite of having already been thoroughly investigated, fingerprinted, etc. to obtain permanent-resident status.

The U.S.A. does not require Japanese who are permanent residents in the U.S. to be fingerprinted when they return to the country. This is grounds enough for a protest to the Japanese government. It is often “gaiatsu” that gets things changed here.

More than just consular services and benign announcements, we Americans expect you to stand up for our rights here. Did the Japanese government ask the Embassy for comment on a law that affects thousands of Americans here, and if so what did you do/say?

Fifteen years ago, Ambassador Walter Mondale fought for the rights of over 100 U.S. citizen teachers at Japanese national universities (I was one.) who were slated to be released because they were in the high pay brackets and close to getting retirement benefits. He met personally with a representative group of affected teachers at the Embassy, and he took the matter to the highest levels of Japanese government and did not give up until they relented and reversed the policy. One point he made was that such an indignity would not happen to the many Japanese academics employed at American universities.

I hope you can so something about this fingerprinting issue; at the very least inform the Japanese government that most Americans resent this new requirement. If you are not sure about the depth of feeling on this issue, you could invite U.S. citizens to write in with feedback/comments on the law.

If your answer is simply that the law is a matter of Japanese internal policy, then you are not serving us well at all.

Thank you,

[Name Withheld]

U.S. Citizen


10 comments on “Permanent Resident protests US Embassy’s inaction towards protecting human rights of own citizens

  • Debito, You have hit the nail on the head. “Myself, I think the USG has long forgotten it’s primary duty to its taxpayers/citizens, and sees its main duty as selling weapons and maintaining military bases and regional interests.”

    Just today W is in Ramallah maintaining regional interests as we speak. Check:

    As for the US Government speaking up on the issue of the fingerprinting of it citizens, I think it’s just biding its time so it can do the same on US soil. Land of the fee and the home of the knave!

  • I do think that trying to get the US gvt to protest the fingerprinting policies of the Japanese government is (for want of a better analogy) like trying to get the Cookie Monster to stop eating cookies. The US gvt was the first OECD nation to implement fingerprinting and despite disparities between both systems (permanent residents etc) to the man on the street there is little to distinguish the two. Now honestly guys, why would the US gvt criticise fingerprinting? In the face of so much foreign pressure on the US itself to abolish its own fingerprinting policies don’t you you think that that might appear just a little bit hypocritical? I doubt very much whether the pot will start calling the kettle black any time soon. I imagine EU-states to a certain extent have the moral highground here and are in a better position to voice criticism.
    I don’t mean to sound overly pessimistic and I am quite supportive of many of the steps you take to draw attention to inequality in Japan but I do think that trying to get US support in this particular matter is a futile exercise.

  • Well, if the Australian Embassy is anything to go by, the diplomatic missions seem to be in support of the changes. Here’s the reply I got from the Australian Embassy:

    Thank you for your email concerning changes to Japanese entry requirements.

    While we understand your concern at having to undergo the procedure of
    being finger-printed, Japan, like Australia, has the sovereign right to
    determine its own entry requirements. We respect that right and appreciate
    that Japan’s introduction of biometric technology as part of its entry
    procedures is motivated by a concern to strengthen its border security.

    Japan is not the first country to collect biometric information as part of
    its immigration procedures. Our own Department of Immigration and
    Citizenship is also looking at a range of biometric technology, which
    includes facial recognition, fingerprinting, and iris scanning, for
    possible incorporation in its programmes and processes. The objective is to
    use biometrics technology as part of a broader identity management strategy
    designed to strengthen identification processes for non?citizens entering

    The reports we have had to date are that the arrangements at Narita airport
    are operating reasonably quickly, with authorities endeavouring to minimise
    inconvenience to travellers. Additionally, Japanese authorities have
    established an express lane for visa holders re-entering Japan who have
    registered in advance. For more information on the process and
    registration hours, the Immigration Bureau at Shinagawa can be contacted on
    (03) 5796 7112.

    Thank you for drawing your concerns about this issue to our attention.

    Best Regards,

    Consular Section
    Australian Embassy, Tokyo


  • Yes Debito, they don’t want to upset the golden goose.

    Their reply was simply a pre-prepared cut and paste job. I know this because they start the letter with “While we understand your concern…”. But I didn’t SAY or even hint that I was concerned about anything. I just asked them what their opinion of the new changes was.

  • Doug Allsopp says:

    I am a long-time resident, and have had Permanent Residence status for about five years. I, like many other PRs, feel that it is insulting for someone who has previously been deemed OK for a Permanent Resident visa to have to be fingerprinted on re-entry. It is the assumed assumption of possible/probable criminal status that is most galling.

    I have not left/re-entered Japan since the fingerprinting began (again), so I still don’t know what I will do when I next re-enter.

    Whatever. That is not the point of this letter. My point is:

    Why are people writing to their respective countries’ embassies expecting support regarding this issue? Are you fucking idiots? The very fact that you have Permanent Residence status means that you have CHOSEN to NOT LIVE in the country of your birth. (Like me.) I haven’t seen statistics, but I assume that most people who apply for and obtain a PR visa have no intention of Going Home, and surely few do. I know that I won’t.

    You really expect the US Embassy (for example) to be expected to be sympathetic towards someone who has abandoned the US? Give me a break. To me, that’s like going to the local video rental store and asking them to help complain about Tsutaya’s high prices.

    I’m not being critical of any embassies who might not be helpful/sympathetic about this. I am just amazed that anyone would expect them to be.


  • Debito

    While I share your, and your respondents, unhappiness at this turn of events, in the wider atmosphere of fear that immigration services around the globe seem keen to capitalise on, the imposition of fingerprinting doesn’t seem that improbable.

    Certainly, as Futzl says, the hopes of some that other players like the US, UK or Australia (coincidentally, until very recently the three main players in the ‘coalition of the willing’) might register their objections seems naive. Here in the UK we are a part of Europe and ostensibly we have an area without frontiers that stretches from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, the Baltic to the Med. And for the most part it is – you can travel between these countries without having so much as to show your passport. Until you come to the UK that is, where even BBC correspondents report being asked to show their passports to regain entry to the country of their birth. While hardly in the same league as the implications of criminality that fingerprinting carries, the fact that it appears that the UK alone feels it necessary to behave in this way, it bespeaks a course that we seem, at present, unable to deviate from. It should also be said that biometric data is presently being added to our passports.

    But I think the rage that is directed at these measures is misguided – it attacks a symptom rather than a cause. That cause is the demonisation in some quarters of foreigners in Japan. In this respect the NJ population do have the support of the rest of the world – in so far as Japanese norms deviate so far from what is now considered normal in other developed nations vis-a-vis immigration, nationality, asylum and so on.

    I should say that I am less involved in all this than most of your readers as my family (Anglo-Japanese) are resident in the UK at present, so maybe I am not as sensitive to the effects of the action, but perhaps this is a battle that is not worth fighting so much as the rest of the “war on inequality” to be had in Japan.



  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Maybe if non-whaling countries started cracking down on visitors from whaling countries and demanding tighter immigration procedures – after all, you don’t know when these pro-whaling types will start slaughtering ocean mammals.
    Sound stupid? Compare it to the immigration policies of some governments we could mention.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Doug, if you make $80,000 per year or more, the US government is still interested enough in you to take income tax from you. If they’re taking your money, they had better be providing the services that that money pays for.

    The more I think about the fingerprinting issue, the more I come to believe that what we should really be fighting against is the mandatory carrying of Alien Cards. You can prepare yourself for hassle at the airport, but the random street stoppages and harassment that happen because non-citizens have to carry these cards are something whose shadow never goes away. I cross the street to avoid passing in front of a koban, but there’s not much you can do if a patrol car pulls up next to you and stops you.

    These cards and stoppages are — as far as I know — still illegal in the security-obsessed US and UK. Would we not do better to ask our embassies to urge Japan to, if they’re going to implement the stricter border checks that our countries have, balance this by affirming the civil liberties of non-citizens, as our nations do?

  • @Doug: You are forgetting two things:

    1) Even those of us who are not permanent residents are affected by this, any many of those who are complaining to their embassies etc. are not permanent residents.

    2) I suspect that most PRs still feel at least some allegiance to the country of their birth, and vice versa. There’s no reason why a PR shouldn’t expect to be helped out by the country whose passport he carries.

  • EU ministers discuss recording personal data of all visitors to bloc
    28.01.2008 – 09:30 CET | By Honor Mahony
    EU justice ministers meeting over the weekend examined proposals that would require all visitors to the EU to have their personal details recorded upon entry to the 27-nation bloc.

    The informal meeting, held in Slovenia, the current holder of the EU presidency, on Friday and Saturday, discussed obtaining finger prints, biometric and personal data from non-EU visitors to cut down on the risk of terrorists entering the Union.

    According to French daily Liberation, the project, spearheaded by EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini, aims to file the data of all those entering the EU by land, air or sea.

    The information would be stored in a European database and modelled on the US system.

    “We have to find a balance between security and the right to freedom of movement,” said Mr Frattini.

    His words come just weeks after the EU extended its borderless internal zone to cover a further nine member states.

    The commissioner indicated that the database would allow authorities to know the date of entry of a person and whether they stayed or left.

    “We cannot tolerate that people who arrive legally enter into illegality,” said the commissioner, according to Liberation.

    “Public opinion expects that a Europe of security be a Europe that protects them, which requires securing [Europe] against external risks,” said French interior minister Michele Alliot-Marie

    Mr Frattini is expected to unveil concrete proposals to his national counterparts at a formal meeting next month.

    From January 28th, 2008


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