Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Clear yardsticks needed for granting residency

"The controversy involving an undocumented Filipino family has shown that this nation badly needs yardsticks when determining whether to grant special residency permits to foreigners living in Japan without proper documentation.

"Arlan and Sarah Calderon, a Filipino couple who live in Saitama Prefecture, will be deported next month. They have made repeated requests to the justice minister to issue special residency permits since the order to deport them for staying in this country illegally was finalized.

"Justice Minister Eisuke Mori, however, decided to issue a residency permit only to the couple's 13-year-old daughter, Noriko.

"Noriko was born in Japan and speaks only Japanese. She is currently a first-year student at a public middle school.

"Mori's decision was a tough blow for the couple and their daughter, who wanted to stay together in this country so that Noriko could continue her studies while living with her parents.

"Last year, the Supreme Court ruled against the family when they requested nullification of the government's deportation order. This fact is of importance when considering this case.

"The family has relatives in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan. They have integrated into the local community and Noriko has a place in school.

"Mori apparently decided to grant a special residency permit to Noriko because he decided she would be able to live in this country with the help of her relatives, friends and others.

"Mori also indicated his intention to grant short-term visiting permits to her parents.

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"Entry regarded as malicious

"The couple have illegally stayed in Japan for more than 15 years. Taking that fact into consideration, we believe the justice minister acted in line with existing immigration policies, which should be strictly adhered to.

"The couple entered Japan with passports bearing other people's names. The justice minister apparently decided their cases were more malicious than those of illegal stayers who had entered this nation with legitimate passports. This is one of the factors that led the justice minister to refuse them special residency permits.

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"Decisions made case by case

"Currently, there are no clear yardsticks the justice minister can use when deciding whether to issue special residency permits.

"The justice minister makes a decision on a case-by-case basis at his or her discretion, after studying an applicant's reasons for seeking a residency permit and family and living circumstances.

"Decisions will inevitably differ depending on how the justice minister weighs the illegal act of staying in this country without proper documentation against the applicant's actual living circumstances.

"In 2007, special residency permits were granted to about 7,400 foreigners, many of whom were married to a Japanese.

"Among families who had children of middle school age or older, some received special residency permits for all family members because they had established themselves in Japan.

"Another factor that is believed to have influenced Mori's decision was Noriko's age when the family was first ordered in 2006 to leave the country. Noriko was then a primary school student.

"Unsuccessful applicants would understand more clearly why their applications for special residency permits had been rejected if a yardstick had been laid down concerning the age of a child of undocumented foreigners.

"Britain's policy of granting residency permits to undocumented foreigners who have lived in the country for a certain period of time could serve as a good guide when considering Japan's policy in this regard.

"Japan's immigration control system will be regarded with greater respect only when it makes precise decisions based on clear yardsticks."

By Editorial (Yomiuri Shimbun, 3/15/2009), Link to article (last visited 3/15/2009)

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