Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Illegal Migrants and Crime: It Still Doesn’t Pay

Just last week (July 19), the National Police Agency(NPA) of Japan released its yearly summary report on crimes in Japan.  Entitled "The White Paper on Police 2010," the report discusses all types of crimes in Japan from illegal parking to organized crime within what it calls a theme of "Globalization of Crime and Police Efforts."

Table 1 below is a top-level, summary table, culled out from selected sections of the 2010 report and from other previous reports by the Bureau of Immigration and the Ministry of Justice, that focuses on crimes of Filipinos, foreigners in general and illegal immigrants.

[Note to the reader:  The reader is advised to read through some important explanatory notes found at the end of Table 1, detailing the categorization and composition of the data which, in turn, is set by the specific data definitions adopted by the National Police Agency of Japan.]

Table 1:  Crimes in Japan by Type, Filipino Nationality, Total Foreigners and Legal Status, 2009  [PDF Copy]
[Source Tables: Table 2, Table 3, Table 4]

Regarding Total Crime of Foreigners in Japan (please refer to Table 1 above):
- Among 36 visiting foreigners arrested for crimes everyday, 4 (10%) are Filipinos.  
- Among 76 cases cleared everyday (“cleared” meaning those cases for which arrests were made or those subsequently solved) by the police, 4 (5%) cases involve Filipinos.
- The 36 visiting foreigners arrested everyday represented 0.2% of the total visiting foreigners in Japan in 2009.
- The 4 Filipinos arrested everyday represented 1% of the total visiting Filipinos in Japan in 2009.

Regarding Penal Code Offenses of Foreigners in Japan(please refer to Table 1 above):
- Majority (56 cases or almost 3 out of every 4 or 74%) of the total crimes of visiting foreigners that are cleared by the police everyday involve penal code offenses.
- These 56 cases of penal code offenses involving visiting foreigners represent 1 out of every 20 (or 4%) of the national Japan total of 1,492 penal code cases cleared each day.
- Among 20 visiting foreigners arrested everyday for penal code offenses, approximately 2 (1.7 to be exact) are illegal immigrants.
- The 20 visiting foreigners arrested everyday (totaling 7,190 for the year) for penal code cases represented 0.1% of the visiting foreigner population in Japan in 2009 and 2% of the national Japan total of 912 arrests daily for penal code offenses.
- The 2 illegal immigrants arrested everyday (totaling 621 for the year) for penal code offenses represented 1% of the illegal immigrant population of 113,072 in Japan in 2009 and 0.2% of the national Japan total of 912 arrests everyday for penal code offenses.
- Among 20 visiting foreigners arrested everyday for penal code offenses, just over 1 (1.5 to be exact) are Filipinos.
- The 1.5 Filipinos arrested everyday (totaling 521 for the year) for penal code offenses represented 0.4% of the visiting Filipinos in Japan in 2009 and 0.2% of the national Japan total of 912 arrests everyday for penal code offenses.

Table 2 below goes into further detail regarding the types of penal code offenses committed by Filipinos, visiting foreigners, comparing these against the national Japan figures.
Table 2:  Selected Penal Code Crimes Committed by Filipinos in Japan, 2009
[PDF Copy]

Regarding the detailed types of penal code offenses of visiting foreigners in Japan (please refer to Table 2 above):

- The penal code offenses for which Filipinos have been arrested are, among others: offenses classified as “serious” such as murder, robbery, rape, abduction, indecent assault; and, larceny offenses including burglary theft, motor vehicle theft, purse-snatching and pick-pocketing.  It is to be noted that these specified offenses listed in available online data comprise less than 10% (44 of 541) of the penal code offenses by Filipinos.  Thus, Filipinos have been arrested for other types of penal code offenses but only those listed in Table 2 have been specified in online data located.
- Among the penal code offenses listed in Table 2 for which Filipino visiting foreigners have been arrested, Robbery and Burglary Theft are the two major ones (25 offenses or more than half of the 44 listed penal code offenses. This same trend applies also for the visiting foreigners (504 of 746 penal code offenses of visiting foreigners are Robbery and Burglary Theft).
- The 7,190 Penal code offenses for which visiting foreigners were arrested in 2009 represent 2.2% of the national Japan total of 332,888 arrests.

Table 3:  Selected Penal Code Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants in Japan, 2009
[PDF Copy]

Regarding the detailed types of penal code offenses of illegal immigrants in Japan (please refer to Table 3 above):

- Illegal immigrants arrested for penal code offenses in 2009 (621 persons) comprised 0.2% of the national Japan total of 332,888 arrests.
- Comparisons can be made only on the Break-In Robbery and Break-In Burglary categories given completeness of data found online, thus far.  Some data and summation clarifications are currently still being resolved.
- Illegal immigrants arrested for Break-In Robberies (15 arrests) represented 1.4% of the national Japan figure of 1,072 arrests.
- Illegal immigrants arrested for Break-In Burglaries (139 arrests) represented 1.3% of the national Japan figure of 10,852 arrests.

Table 4:  Top Five Nationalities in Crimes Committed in Japan, 2001-2010
[PDF Copy]

Regarding the top five nationalities in crimes committed in Japan (please refer to Table 4 above):

- In 2009, a big majority (22,390 cases or 80%) of the 76 crime cases cleared everyday by the police (totaling 27,836 cases yearly) are committed by nationals from only 5 countries, namely: China (Biggest, Rank 1), Brazil, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines (Rank 5).  Moreover, nationals from only 2 countries already account for the majority of these 76 crime cases cleared everyday by the police, namely:  China (45%) and Brazil (14%) with a combined percentage of 59%.
- In 2009, the percentage of total crimes cleared by police as a percentage of the total population of visiting foreigners of all nationalities is 0.4%.  Moreover, it is Brazil which has the largest percentage of both total crime cases cleared (6.2%) by the police and individuals arrested (1.5%).
- In 2009, the percentage of total crimes cleared by police as a percentage of the total population of Filipinos was 1%.
- In 2009, the percentage of total crimes for which Filipinos were arrested as a percentage of the total population of visiting Filipinos was 0.9%.

Not a few of my bilog respondents have told me that in fact local police know they exist and abound in the areas where they patrol but that they are largely left alone to their own devices – as long as they do not commit any crime.

Butch narrated how he was scooped up during a routine dragnet in the gaijin house he was staying in, being immediately brought to the police station where he spent a few days in detention.  He was subsequently released upon the relentless and persistent appeals for mercy by a Filipina permanent resident, Butch’s live-in partner at that time, who had good relations with the local police.  As he was released Butch was given a stern admonition to stay out of any trouble and not do anything illegal.  While Butch may have been saved by the good social relations and dogged determination of his social capital of permanent residents, Larry’s story, on the other hand, highlights the power of just pure sincerity, not to mention plain luck.

Larry was also with a Filipina permanent resident and they were eating at a Chinese restaurant.  Larry explains that it still isn’t clear to him what had brought about what happened next, but they were suddenly approached by three men, in plainclothes, who quickly identified themselves as immigration agents.  They were both asked to show their identification cards and, not having any, Larry gave the excuse that he had left his at home.  That had not been the first time that Larry was subjected to a routine check, though it was the first time he had experienced one indoors, that is, not on the street, and his reason of having left his papers at his home had previously worked.  That time though, Larry explains, the immigration agents seemed especially persistent, and volunteered to accompany him back to his home to get his papers so that they could inspect them.  And so they did.

On the walk back to Larry’s apartment, he had thought of just admitting that he had no papers.  In the previous times this strategy had worked, the agents would get called out to another assignment or would lose steam in the journey to the apartment, and, in both cases, he had subsequently been allowed to go.  But no, Larry decided to push his luck farther, sticking by his little modus operandi.

Reaching his Doya, Larry was still hoping against hope that the agents would just let him go.  But as he opened the door to his 2.5 tatami-sized room, Larry knew at that point that he would have to just come clean and tell them the truth.  He showed them his old passport, explaining that he had long wanted to go back home but that he had not yet been able to save up enough money for the plane fare, and that he would be very grateful if the Japanese government could help him get home.  To his great surprise, the agents eventually didn’t bring him to the immigration detention center.  He was just advised to save money as fast as he could, return home soon and that he should stay out of trouble.

A number of key respondents have also shared stories pointing to how keeping away from crime impacts on the lives of illegal migrants positively or, conversely, how just one criminal offense can mean immediate deportation, wiping away one’s decades-long illegal tenure.  At one level, these narrations may, in fact, be anecdotal and not have come directly from the concerned parties.  However, I judge them to still be worthy of mentioning due to the strength of the credentials or authority of the key informant on the subject matter being discussed.

As a Catholic priest in Japan, Fr. Carlos regularly visited Filipino migrants detained at the immigration detention center, helping them with their day-to-day, material needs (providing toiletries, etc) as well as providing other forms of pastoral care such as giving spiritual guidance, administering the applicable sacraments, and other forms of requested counseling services.  One of the Filipino detainees he was visiting had been an overstayer in Japan for over two decades.  This particular detainee decided not to contest his deportation order, but couldn’t leave because he had no money to buy his own plane ticket [cite the rule on buying own ticket], causing him to stay in detention for several months. One day, Fr. Carlos didn’t see this detainee anymore at the detention center, and inquiries as to his whereabouts were given the reply that he was released but with no reason being given.  Fr. Carlos had subsequently verified through the local Filipino community that he was indeed released and that he was told by immigration officers to just move out of the city and not come back.  One of the reasons for his release, cited by those Fr. Carlos had talked to, was that this particular detainee had no criminal record

It would seem that side by side with the formal implementation of immigration laws exists an informal rule, a subterranean reality, if you will, that mercy may be extended to overstayers, their honest-to-goodness, day-to-day, back-breaking work may be condoned, as long as they don’t cross that threshold of crime.  To be sure, the stories of Butch and Larry are very rare exceptions to the rule, and should not be counted upon by current or future overstayers as factors that may help prolong their illegal stay as a migrant workers in Japan.

A rule is a rule and must be followed, and you indeed will get a fare and square application of this rule if you engage the authorities on the formal level or public sphere where one becomes vulnerable to scrutiny and where saving face and projecting the firmness of authority become the paramount value.  But if one very respectfully appeals for reconsideration, citing humanitarian grounds, and that this is done through informal channels, discussions being done in a private matter, and backed up with representations from legal and/or respected members of the community or formal organizations, then there may be a slim chance that one may get lucky.

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