So claims Daniel W. Drezner on his Foreign Policy blog on the basis of an NYT article. (What else?) Not exactly what I’d been looking for, but I felt compelled to comment, and, too late, I realized that the comments section had been closed already, so…The NYT article misrepresents the Japanese government’s actions, in the event failing to focus on the very real policy failures regarding the predominantly Latin-American immigrants of recent Japanese origin. The immigrant workers and their families, like any Japanese citizens and other permanent residents, may choose to stay in Japan and draw unemployment benefits and go on welfare. But jobs are hard to come by in the current economic environment and life on the dole does not hold out much hope for the future as far as building a stake for a comfortable life back home is concerned. The government payoff in exchange for a ban of indefinite duration from Japanese soil is the other side of the coin, an option—the choice is up to the immigrants. I would go along, probably support, a cooling-off period of definite duration, but the ban is not permanent, as the report claims. Of course there is a good chance that the “indefinite” may end up being “permanent” if the Japanese economy continues to underperform. That is why many of those immigrants are sticking it out.
Personally, I think that the Japanese authorities should have handled it differently—from the beginning, when the immigration policy was altered to bring in these people. Specifically, the immigrants and their families should have been encouraged to integrate. Most importantly, school-age children should have been required to attend Japanese schools, and the national and local governments should have given them every practical support. Adults also should have been given incentives to take up ongoing education. They could have been a good test case for a rational, controlled immigration program. It would have been the subject of less controversy than a full-fledged national debate on the broader issue would have invited. But that’s not the NYT’s argument.
Finally, it may be of interest to you that Komeito is the only political party that takes up the cause of immigrant workers and their families in its election manifesto. Komeito and DPJ also want to give permanent residents the right to vote in local elections.