Given the nature and sensitivity of the study, the single, biggest hurdle is identifying, finding, establishing contact and building the trust and confidence of irregular migrants. In order to provide in-depth and accurate answers to my research questions, it is necessary to ensure that the study’s subjects are representative of 3 focus areas, as shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Three Focus Areas of the Study of Irregular Migrants
a. Three Focus Areas
Becoming an irregular migrant entails significant effort in terms of weighing all options, planning and execution, highlighting thus the need to investigate the “potential” irregular migrant (Focus Area #1) and the conditions that facilitate or hinder this process.
Focus Area #2 (Irregular) and Focus Area #3 (Regular) can be described as a chicken-and-egg situation, as shown by the red and green arrows in Figure 1.
A migrant can enter a host country legally, but stay beyond the period indicated in the visa, thus transitioning to an irregular migrant. Or, a migrant can enter a host country as an irregular migrant, and through some alternative process become regularized. An irregular migrant may opt to be voluntarily deported, then re-enter the country as a regular migrant by marrying a local. A spouse of a local may lose regular status through a divorce and subsequent cancellation of a spouse visa, then may choose to re-enter the host country as an irregular.
This fluidity and volatility of the situation of irregular migrants stresses the importance of two variables – length of stay(number of years), and status (current irregular/regular or past irregular/regular) – that interplay within and between the 3 key focus areas, creating various conditions that prove supportive or detrimental to the survival, or thriving, of the irregular migrant. These two variables provide the basis of within-case analysis that will be done on each case.
b. Cross-Case Comparisons Using “Innovative Local Governments”
A number of Japanese local governments have developed various alternative processes that effectively make available various social services to irregular migrants, effectively breaking away from towing the official stance of the national government that explicitly restricts social services to only those with legal status (Shipper, 2008). Shipper lists these innovative local governments as follows: Osaka, Utsonomiya, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Kanagawa and Saitama.
This study will further analyze the results of its case studies from the three focus areas by applying the layer of “innovative local government” – effectively conducting cross-case comparisons that will highlight various contextual factors and their individual or combined effects on the survival of irregular migrants. Understanding which common survival tools, if any, irregular migrants, located in different “innovative local governments”, have developed will strengthen the study’s conceptual validity (George & Bennett, 2005).
C. How Do I Find the Irregular Migrants and Establish Contact?
In field work conducted in August 2009, I was able to interview a handful of Filipino irregular migrants who were introduced to me by a local non-profit organization helping overseas Filipino workers. While finding subjects is undoubtedly faster through referrals by organizations, the effectiveness and depth of findings of the researcher may be defined and thus delimited by his default association or identification with the organization that introduced the irregular migrant. To be sure, interviewees introduced by an organization may conform to any given set philosophies or results that are being currently promoted. Answers to questions may be guarded, filtering out information that may jeopardize the continued assistance being received by the interviewee from the organization.
Thus, it is necessary to develop an alternative method of finding subjects, not only to ensure objective data, but as a way of triangulating and corroborating information given by both sources.
Two basic search strategies will be employed: Own Search (OS) and Introduced by Others (IO).
The choice of search strategy to use will most likely define the “length of stay” variable, that is, an OS strategy will most likely net irregular migrants who are neophytes (less than 1 year in the host country) and an IO strategy will most likely produce mid-term overstayers (2-10years length of stay). To be sure, the length of stay variable is significant because the depth of survival experiences and, in fact, the level of improvisation and innovation of survival habits and tools, varies directly with the number of years the irregular migrant has been in-hiding – whether in hand-to-mouth surviving mode, or in thriving mode.
Figure 2 below attempts to show in graph form the relationship between the two types of search strategies, the length of stay variable, the status variable, and Focus Area #2 and #3.
Figure 2: Relationship between Search Strategies, Length of Stay Variable and Status Variable
1. Red Line Only – Irregular migrants who are below the radar/unknown to organizations.
2. Red Line with Blue Line – Irregular migrants who have availed of assistance from organizations/known
3. Green Line with Blue Line – Regular migrants who have availed of assistance from organizations/known
The red line on Quadrant 1 represent the irregular migrants who have decided to strike out on their own, being in contact only with their personal network of family/friends, thus being virtually “unknown” to any organizations. It is theorized that most newly-entered irregulars, since they are by default distrustful/conservative in terms of who they trust, operate within a trusted core of acquaintances (as shown by the red line starting at the higher point of the number of irregulars). As they stay longer as irregulars, their social and economic needs progress from simple to complex, as their children may need educational services or advanced medical care. At this point, the unknown numbers decrease (the red line reaching low point) as irregulars approach organizations and seek their assistance (blue and red line increasing in the midpoint of length of stay). After they avail of the services they need or after they learn of how they can tap into readily accessible government services, these irregulars again drop out of the radar of the organizations (thus the red goes upward again).
In Quadrant 1, Own Search is the effective strategy for the those Unknown. Applying an OS strategy would get the early tenured irregulars and experiences to be shared will be, not surprisingly, raw and emotional as they struggle with many unknowns and loneliness due to separation from their families. Another possibility in using the OS strategy is one would get the few fiercely independent irregulars (who have not sought assistance from organizations despite mid-tenure) or those who have availed of assistance but have eventually dropped out once again from the radar. The insights to be gained from these types of respondents would be fruitful for organizations who wish to learn how they must maintain their relevance and effectiveness with their clientele so as to avoid drop out rates.
In Quadrant 2, there are only Known past irregulars as, regardless of whether their deportation was voluntary or not, they are known entities from the point of their deportation. In Quadrant 2, IO is the logical search strategy to use with the exception of the “Deported/Returned Irregular” group where OS must be employed at the tail end of the line since re-entered irregulars, now already experienced or knowledgeable in the services availed through organizations, are able to function independently upon their reentry as irregulars.
In Quadrant 3, regularized irregulars are Known entities already, and as they are grateful to the assisting organization, they choose to maintain their membership and actively participate in organizational activities (as shown by the horizontal line). IO would be the logical search strategy for Quadrant 3.
In Quadrant 4, there may be a small number (represented by green line starting at low point) of regularized irregulars who may get into legal trouble, resulting in their deportation, who then choose to re-enter as irregulars but keep out of the radar. IO would be the right search strategy at the beginning of the green line in Quadrant 4 but a shift to OS would be necessary at the line’s tail end.
Now clarified as to what kinds of subjects would be most likely produced by the two basic search strategies, the next paragraphs now describe the actual activities to be done to operationalize the search strategies.
c.1 Search Strategy: Introduced by Others (IO)
All immigrants inevitably or invariably participate in the multiple facets of the community where he is based – regardless of whether this participation is encouraged and facilitated by the local government through integration programs or whether his physical survival impels his doing so. A sick immigrant, when self-medication has reached its limits, will naturally seek out various alternative health services offered by existing socio-civic groups. In finding work, the migrant laborer will tap into the existing day laborer markets in his locality.
It is clear then that by virtue of the fact that he avails of various community services in order to survive, an immigrant thus gains default local citizenship or “basic sociopolitical rights and services to immigrants as legitimate members of these local communities” (Tsuda, 2006).
The main path then of the IO search activities to track down the irregular migrant who is considered to have local citizenship would be through the local governments and socio-civic organizations in a community.
Associative activism [Shipper, 2008], or Immigrant activism [Tsuda, 2006], which essentially involves organizations trying to mainstream immigrant groups with the local population, can be found in 3 broad groupings, as follows:
IO Group 1: Immigrant Ethnic Organizations [to be linked to full list soon]
IO Group 2: Support Groups [to be linked to full list soon]
Sub-Type 1: Faith-Based
Sub-Type 2: Community Workers Unions
Sub-Type 3: Women’s Support Groups
Sub-Type 4: Medical NGOs.
Sub-Type 5: Lawyer’s Association NGOs
Sub-Type 6: Concerned-Citizen’s Groups
IO Group 3: Local Government [to be linked to full list soon]
c.2 Own Search (OS)
The Own Search strategy will consist of a three-pronged approach.
First, day laborer markets are the primary converging point for both unskilled local and migrant workers seeking piecework or seasonal jobs [Gill, 2001] [Fowler, 1996]. The most effective way to get to know and cultivate friendships with irregular migrants would be to pose as a day laborer and participate first-hand in the work, and live the life of a day laborer.
The biggest day laborer market in Japan is in Kiyota-ku in Sapporo City.
Second, the author of this study will actively write about the situation of irregular migrants in Japan and submit articles to national newspapers. Prominent names of officers and leaders of various non-profit organizations and even local government units shall be collected and the writer of this study will make a sustained effort to communicate with them and keep them posted on the developments of the study.
Third, the author of this study will launch a web-based sign-up for irregular migrants. There are multiple, interlocking and possibly conflicting set of interests between the target stakeholders of the web-sign up strategy (that is, local innovative governments and the 3 types of organizations) but working with contacts built from OS strategy two, these possible conflicting interests will be worked out one by one.