Japan Times reporter Minoru Matsutani has been engaging in some unusually hard-hitting journalism in his recent series on the new immigration bill making its way through the Diet. In three articles, he went through the LDP’s perspective, the DPJ’s perspective, and the Immigration Bureau’s plans.
The third piece is the most interesting, as it takes on some of the strongest arguments against the new law: that it would be unduly harsh on overstayers and that it would inconvenience foreign residents.
Here’s the counter-argument on the first point:
If illegal foreigners turn themselves in, they may, under certain circumstances, be granted special permission to stay by the justice minister, or placed in custody in preparation for deportation.
The bills stipulate the justice minister must clarify the standard to grant special permission to stay to motivate overstaying foreigners to turn themselves in.
The bureau currently has no concrete criteria for granting the permit. Instead, it shows on its Web site examples of cases it granted and those it didn’t, but the information provided may not give illegal foreigners a clear clue as to what their fate may be, [Immigration Bureau General Affairs Division official Kazuyuki] Motohari said.
In one case on the Web site, a 27-year-old Southeast Asian woman was granted permission in 2007. She entered Japan with a six-month student visa in October 2004, dropped out of school and continued to stay in Japan.
She was arrested for overstaying in 2007, sent to the bureau without criminal charges and married a South American man, a legal resident, she had begun living with before the arrest. The bureau concluded their marriage was credible and she otherwise had a clean criminal record, it said on the Web site.
And on the inconvenience factor–the issue of certain changes having to be made at the immigration office rather than at city hall:
The Immigration Bureau is considering enabling foreign residents to report changes in workplace and apply for renewal of residence cards via mail or the Internet instead of requiring them to go to local immigration offices, he said.
Currently, renewing alien registration cards, which are to be replaced by zairyu cards, and reporting changes in personal information can be done at municipal offices, more of which exist than immigration offices.
For address changes, residents can go to municipal offices even under the new system. For changes in name, gender and nationality, they will have to go to immigration offices instead of municipal offices, but such changes rarely occur.
Together with the fact that this new system will give foreigners the same residence records as Japanese, as well as other benefits like free re-entry permits, it sounds as if the change is still, all in all, good for foreign residents.