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Wednesday, July 1, 2009
CONTROLS ON FOREIGNERS
Visa overstayers given too many breaks: rightist
Fourth in a series
Daisuke Arikado believes the government is too easy on foreigners overstaying their visa and this frustrates him.
Arikado is a former member of an ultra-rightist group who founded and heads the 30-strong nonprofit organization Movement to Eradicate Crimes by Foreigners.
He told The Japan Times that when he learned of the bills now in the Diet that would revise immigration laws — which many foreigners and human right activists view as an attempt by the government to wield excessive control over foreigners — he was disappointed because they didn't go far enough to squelch what he says is the government's leniency toward undocumented aliens.
The bills, expected to be passed because both the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc and the Democratic Party of Japan have agreed on them, will shift authority over foreign residents from municipalities to the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau, allowing it to consolidate information including name, address, workplace, type of visa and expiration of residential status.
The bills will also establish harsher punishment for failing to report changes in address and other personal information, while also extending the duration of resident visas.
Since 2003, the justice minister has granted an average of 10,000 undocumented foreigners a year special permission to stay in Japan. Arikado worries this number will rise when the bills clear the Diet.
"I realize the government wants to get a firm grip on foreigners by obtaining key information to prompt those who are overstaying to turn themselves in. But I fear the government will issue a massive amount of special permits," he said.
"If the government wants to give them an incentive to turn themselves in, it should revise laws to increase the fine or put them in detention longer if they are apprehended before turning themselves in."
Asked why he thinks the government will be inclined to issue more special permits instead of just deporting undocumented foreigners, he said, "The government has been too soft lately in dealing with the situation involving illegal foreign residents."
Arikado cited the case of the Calderon family as an "obvious example" of the government's softness.
Justice Minister Eisuke Mori ordered the undocumented Filipino parents, who entered Japan using someone else's passports, to leave Japan in April. But he allowed their daughter, Noriko, 13, who was born and raised in Japan and speaks only Japanese, to stay.
"Mori established a precedent that children get to stay if illegal foreign parents beg," he said, criticizing the media for overly sympathetic coverage of the family.
He also criticized a provision in the bills that exempts special permanent residents, typically descendants of Korean and Taiwanese who were brought to Japan decades ago, from being required to carry an ID card at all times.
"Some Koreans who are not special permanent residents may lie to police about their residential status and get away with not carrying an ID card," he said.
Special permanent residents are descendants of those who came to Japan from the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan, which were both under Japanese colonial rule in the early 20th century. Postwar peace treaties stripped those original arrivals of their Japanese citizenship, which had been forced on them.
Arikado also takes issue with the humanitarian reasons often cited by the justice minister when granting an illegal foreigner special permission to stay in Japan.
"Some foreigners claim to be political refugees. But in many cases, they just want to work," he said. "Some Japanese died of hunger after they lost their jobs, so is it right to prioritize helping foreigners? Right now, everybody in Japan is losing their spirit as Japanese nationals."
Arikado said he has no problem with giving the justice minister a certain amount of discretion in granting special permission to stay, but he wants the minister to prioritize the welfare of Japanese over foreigners.
Despite the faults he finds with the bills, he still praises them for boosting the government's ability to wield greater scrutiny over foreigners. Hopefully, punishment for violating the regulations stipulated in the bills will be more strictly imposed than now, said Arikado, whose day job is as a journalist at the Chuo Tsushin news service.