Illegal Immigrants Reason for Fingerprinting non-Japanese

Anger among Japan’s foreign community at the new immigraion laws continues to grow. Nearly all foreigners, including permanent residents, are now being fingerprinted every time they enter Japan, and can be denied entry for any reason the Ministry of Justice pleases.

Isn’t the point of fingerprinting to stop terrorists entering Japan?

That’s what I first thought. I even wrote a comparison between fingerprinting in Japan and the UK, showing that Japan couldn’t justify fingerprinting foreigners under the “War on Terror” banner because unlike the UK, it has never been a victim of a terrorist attack from non-Japanese. In contrast, the UK has repeatedly been the target of terrorism, but hasn’t yet implemented fingerprinting at the border, and doesn’t appear to have any plans for a Japanese-style “we don’t care about your visa, just give us your fingerprints” approach.

The “War on Terror” banner is all encompassing

Now, the talking-heads on the Japanese TV news describe the fingerprinting system as a means of preventing “terror, etc.” What exactly is that “etcetera”? Well, on the program I watched this morning, they went on to talk about Japan’s illegal immigration problem, citing last year as the first time ever, over 10,000 foreigners tried to illegally enter Japan.

Illegal immigrants are a menace to Japan!

The way the panel of “experts” discussed the “problem” was disgusting. They presented these 10,000 people as criminals and a danger to society. I know first hand of someone who fell for this hook, line and sinker, believing that fingerprinting was absolutely necessary to stop over 10,000 foreign criminals entering the country every year and running amok.

There are actually very few illegal immigrants in Japan

Here’s a reality check for those who accept these news shows as gospel:

10,000 illegal immigrants per year is actually so low, it’s a figure that Japan should be proud of, not a reason to install fingerprint machines that violate the human rights of everyone forced to use them. Here’s a quick comparison with some other countries:

Japan has a population of 127,433,494 (Jul, 2007 est.) and the news stated that approximately 10,000 illegal immigrants come to Japan each year. Estimated number of illegal immigrants in Japan: 250,000 (0.2% of population).

The U.S. has a population of 301,139,947 (July 2007 est.) and it is estimated that between 400,000 and 700,000 illegal immigrants have entered the United States each year since 1992. Estimated number of illegal immigrants in the U.S.: 12,000,000 (3.9% of population).

France has a population of 60,742,000 (late 2006, est.) and 80,000 – 100,000 illegal immigrants are estimated to enter France each year (though most in transit). Estimated number of illegal immigrants in France: 400,000 (0.7% of population).

The U.K. has a population of 60,776,238 (July 2007 est.) and the Telegraph claims 30,000 illegal immigrants make the journey across the English channel every year. Estimated number of illegal immigrants in the U.K.: 400,000 (0.7% of population).

Illegal immigrants are all criminals!

An illegal immigrant is by definition a person who enters and lives in a country in violation of that country’s laws, so technically, they are criminals. That doesn’t mean they are dangerous people who we should all be afraid of. Here are two stories about illegal immigrants in Japan:

Fingerprinting will not stop illegal immigration

I’m not an expert on illegal immigration, but I would assume the easiest way to become an illegal immigrant is to overstay your visa. Surely, most of Japan’s illegal immigrants entered the country legally and just didn’t return home. If this is the case, how will fingerprinting make any difference?

Why do illegal immigrants stay in Japan?

They come for a better life, and stay because they find employment. But who employs them, and at what cost? The article Japan: Chinese Boat People from 1997 suggests that

Illegal immigrants from China, Korea, and Pakistan are smuggled into western Japan aboard fishing boats by Chinese “snakeheads” and Japanese yakuza gangsters. Instead of obtaining the $25,000 fee to be smuggled in advance, many snakeheads charge only $2,000 in advance, with the balance due upon successful entry into Japan. The boat trip from Fujian to Japan normally takes one week. In order to pay off smuggling fees, some Chinese immigrants commit crimes in Japan.

It’s no secret that Japanese are hiring illegal immigrants. By giving them jobs, they are providing the incentive for illegal immigrants to come to and stay in Japan. Of course, these employers won’t be fingerprinted.

Labeling illegal immigrants as dangerous criminals is fear mongering

Compared to other countries, Japan does not have an illegal immigrant problem worth mentioning. The fact that these low numbers are being presented under the guise of outrageous, disturbing figures that the Japanese masses should be alarmed by is absurd. The fact is, the three main reasons for fingerprinting foreigners – terrorism, illegal immigration, and crime – are all easily exposed as ridiculous exaggerations of threats to society. Installing these fingerprinting devices is an abuse of power that seems to have been done for reasons other than national security.

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

16 thoughts on “Illegal Immigrants Reason for Fingerprinting non-Japanese

    1. They’re fingerprinting every foreigner except children, diplomats and “special” permanent residents. I wrote this post because the news said fingerprinting would reduce the “unbearable number” of illegal immigrants, and I thought that was nothing more than a blatant lie or an uneducated opinion shared by each “expert”.

  1. I understood your post and why you wrote it. I asked because I thought I read somewhere about the “special” permanent residents which doesn’t sound fair, but I was too lazy to look it up and thought it might be fresh in your mind. Now I see you spoke about it on your UK comparison. I think “denied entry for any reason the Ministry of Justice pleases” is a pretty scary scenario to any foreigner. What does that mean? Where will they draw the line? Lame.

      1. I might have been a bit unfair with that line about the MoJ. It’s probably as simple as “if you’re on the list, you’re not coming in”, but there have been stories of political activists on no-fly lists in the States, so who knows what the minimum crime is to get on the list? A parking ticket? Yikes! 😯

  2. Well, with Japanese pride in the way, 1 illegal immigrant would be an “unbearable number”. Such is the life of Japanese politicians who surround themselves with people who can actually tolerate the monotony of nothingness that is politics in this country. Experts that actually know things have real jobs 😛

    To be completely honest, I’m surprised that anything gets done in a nation that has only 3 competent elected leaders and 180+ dolts who embezzle, take bribes, bitch, moan or otherwise waste our time and tax money. I used to think that Canadian politicians were a pretty sorry bunch, but Japan has upped the ante 😕

    All that said, you’re right that fingerprinting will do nothing to prevent people from illegally entering this country. Instead, it’ll just turn away the ones that had been previously deported and have now returned with a new or fake passport. Fingerprinting will, however, catch the few criminals that try to get into the country through regular means of passage.

    Since Tuesday, the system has already caught 1 person known to have ties to Al Queda, three people previously deported and barred from re-entry, and two people on Interpol’s wanted list.

    This will do nothing to stop someone who entered legally from staying past their visa and disappearing in the crowds, nor will this stop people who pay to get in through the yakuza, but it’s a great PR opportunity for the country and if they can stop even a handful of people (which they already have), then they’ll claim it a complete success.

    It’s unfortunate that this country is full of idiot leaders that have no concept of tact or proper phrasing. One would think that with a language as eloquent as Japanese, the leaders would have tacit canned responses for almost every controversial law passed. Sadly, they’re too busy accepting gifts from corporate sponsors to learn effective language skills.

    1. Thanks Jason, it’s kind of sad that you’ve only just settled in Japan, and you get to experience a real low point for us foreigners. Arudou Debito said “In all my twenty years of Japan, I’ve never seen the NJ (Non-Japanese) communities so angry.”

      If you don’t know Debito, I highly recommend you take a look through his site, and you might be particulalrly interested in reading his post “Yomiuri & Nikkei trumpet 5 NJ snagged by Fingerprinting system. Sankei says FP system not snagger” in which he says the 5 people “snagged” on the first day of fingerprinting, weren’t actually caught by the fingerprinting machine itself, but by traditional means.

      Love your last paragraph. You are so right.

      1. Thanks for the link, Nick. I haven’t been to Debito’s site before, and it has a good amount of information. There are an incredible number of people that are quite upset with the fingerprinting issue, but I doubt the government will consider repealing the issue anytime soon.

        How many of us non-Japanese can actually vote? Our displeasure means jack all to those in power right now.

        That said, if a bunch of natives stood up and said “We’re tired of having a racist government”, then it might get some attention.

        Either way, I’m okay with it for now. Ask me again if I have trouble re-entering the country, though 😕

        1. Yeah, not even permanent residents can vote. I wouldn’t say we’re completely powerless, but from this comment it sounds like it would be almost impossible to get the decision changed anytime soon.

          Lim Young-Ki, a representative of the Korean Youth Association in Japan, pointed out how ethnic Koreans had fought for decades until the 2000 abolition of fingerprinting on Alien Registration Certificates only to see the process revived through the back door now.

          It’ll never happen, but can you imagine how silly Japan would look if the US abolished its own US-VISIT program? There would be public outrage! The only reason this has been given the go ahead is because it’s being done in the States, and that’s supposed to make it okay. 😕

  3. im afilipino over stayed in japan twice ,i came in japan twice using different names bec. of my japanese employer,i work as welder in big refineries my other co.workers japanese receive double of my salary who is the criminal me or my japanese employer

    1. Thank you! You’re the perfect example to show how some Japanese are exploiting foreign workers, and then the foreigners get blamed and fingerprinted!

  4. I’m a Permanent Resident of Japan, from the UK and have lived here since 1994. Japan has never been attacked by foreign terrorists and if such attack is likely it will happen overseas. Japan has been attacked by home grown terrorists. The introduction of fingerprinting is against the Japanese Constitution which affords protection to all peoples who are in Japan and not just Japanese nationals.

  5. Mayra Payes Carrillo
    Aliases: Guera
    Date of Birth: Octuber 06, 1978
    Height: 5’2”
    Weight: 160 pounds
    Eyes: Green
    Hair: Brown
    Sex: Female
    Race: White/Hispanic
    Nationality: Guatemala
    NCIC Number: No have documentation,
    Occupation: No
    Scars and Marks: Mayra alias Guera has a tattoo of a roses in the arms right.
    Is gang member
    Does not carry document has problems with the law, is extremely violent, to be careful. “once or twice carries firearm or I puncture cutting”
    Possible address where itself to seen
    5214 S. San Pedro St. Los Angeles CA. 90011

  6. Well even tho no exact ‘terrorist’ of another country has attacked I personaly consider the United stats bombings Terrorism. I am going to be trying to get into Japan legaly and get a long term visa then a citizenship, but if I have problems with getting that witch I hear its hard to do I will be a illegal as well and likely join the YAKUZA for since they care not and provide housing and money with no questions.

  7. Poor little liberal, not everyone has had your brainwashing in school. LOL Your kind are losing big in the world.

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