Thursday, December 20, 2012

Emergent Property: Interdependence

What would otherwise be a crippling handicap due to lack of legal status is overcome by overstayers who deftly cultivate, expand and then efficiently utilize their social networks.  Ironically, it is precisely the systematic exclusion produced by the State's suppressant strategies that enables the overstayer's inclusion within his ethnic community, spawning this keen sense of interdependence, consummating, as it were, the four cTm sub-types (recall discussion on cTm as starter, enabler, safety-net and legalizer).

This kind of heightened social symbiosis intrinsic in migrant illegality is distinct from, say, the refuge afforded a fugitive murder convict by relatives, or the solace given to a terminally-ill patient by social workers: in the former case, familial obligation prevails over attributed high risk; in the latter case, the imperative may be fueled by altruism.   In migrant illegality, the interdependence is inherently vested and voluntary: employers secure business flexibility thru exceptionally-compliant overstayer hirees; ethnic pockets who help overstayers get rights to collect future favors, loyalty, reciprocated intimacy, etc.; cooperative local authorities get convenience, a robust, resilient and low-cost small-business sector, possibly even benefits to multiculturalism;  finally, overstayers get continued existence.

Interdependence exhibits itself in employer protection (recall Etimo and Gandi/Textbox 3) or utilitarianism and convenience (recall Putik/Textbox 4).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Resultant Property: Value Negotiation

The exigencies of migrant illegality impel its participants to a heightened urgency and shortened cycle of interrogation of risk versus benefit.  Overstayers routinely grapple with both strategic choices - albeit unknowingly given the absence of perspective and uninformed by hindsight - and tactical dilemmas: the impact of short-term productivity enabled by their state-unsanctioned, extended stay on their own well-being and that of their families (recall d1/2 and e1/2 of Figure 11); deciding who to trust with the knowledge of their (lack of) legal status especially when this assists or endangers the recommendation with which his current or next job is secured.  

Local authorities (Shipper 2008) also find themselves weighing their more immediate mandate to enhance the welfare of their constituents versus their role in towing the national policy line.  Outcomes of value negotiation include regret over long-term misprioritization (recall Subaru/Textbox 5), the primacy of economic over all other considerations (recall Manong/Textbox 4) or humanitarian considerations on health services (recall Iking/Textbox 2).

It is this value negotiation that the APCCRS's suppressant strategies target to rein in by ensuring that the result of the negotiation tilts in favor of the State.  One example is the 2004 Departure Order System (Japan Immigration Bureau 2004) which presented overstayers with the option to voluntarily surrender and return to their country of origin in exchange for a shortened period of banned return to Japan and the waiving of what was previously mandatory detention for all overstayers.  Another instance is the 2012 abolition of the Alien Registration Law and its replacement with the new Resident Management System which centralized the registration and management of foreigner identities with national-level agencies, having the effect of minimizing or altogether negating the pattern of favorable, at worst, or, at best, neutral treatment of overstayers at selected local governments throughout Japan.

The property of value negotiation in component parts may be best exemplified in the suppressant strategies related to productivity (see #4 strategy in Table 17).  Foreigners with Japanese descent are singled out to be given job placement and career counseling assistance in order to head off their regression into crime.  This form of value negotiation has been described as a racialized hierarchy (Shipper 2008) on which access to employment markets is wielded most favorably in favor of foreigners with Japanese descent.

GO TO:  Emergent Property:  Interdependence

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Resultant Property: Innovation

Goal-driven migrants pounce on loopholes in immigration control technology to achieve, first, entry, and then, second, legitimate (legal) status by whatever means (recall c1, d1, d2, e2 and f2 in Figure 11).  

Whether as fulfillment of demand for highly docile and tractable labor or as willing victims providing continuing business to facilitating organizations, migrant utilizers at both destination and source states continue to flaunt migration rules backed by an impotent legal framework.  Innovation inevitably translates to overstaying longevity (recall Gandi/Textbox 2) or emboldened disregard of the State's rules (recall Doble-doble/Textbox 1).

It is the suppression of this continuing innovation that is targeted by the APCCRS  strategies including, mainly, the fortification of immigration control technology, strengthening of the legal framework, the enforcement of compliance by migrant utilizers.

Moreover, it is similarly the innovation of these individual components, reacting to separate stimuli (wholly or partly unrelated to migrant illegality itself), that brought these constituting parts into their current configuration and relational schematics that, in turn, form the resultant properties of the migrant illegality whole.  One example of these lower-level innovation instances is, as I discuss in the section on ethnic pockets, how the legal framework adopted various types of resident statuses for Koreans in Japan in its attempt to either keep them at arm's length or achieve their full societal integration.  Still another example is how Japan's immigration control processes "anonymously" acquiesced to the changing activities of migrants applying for the same entertainer visa category(the official definition of which remained unchanged), beginning with established musicians playing instruments and ending with supposed prostitution and a host of other alleged illegal activities.

GO TO:  Resultant Property:  Value Negotiation

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Resultant and Emergent Properties of Migrant "Illegality"

Following my discussion of Emergence in Critical Realism, here below are the theorized resultant and emergent properties of migrant "illegality."


In the next paragraphs I will argue that the consistently decreasing numbers of overstayers reported by the government of Japan is the effect of its suppressant strategies on the resultant properties of migrant illegality.  Decreasing numbers of overstayers give no indication of the robustness of migrant illegality as seen in its emergent properties which are sustained by, actively thrive and re-interact with its own constituting parts.

In the critical realist theory, the concept of emergence plays a central role in its view of reality as ontologically autonomous (Lopez 2003, p.77), that is, that which makes reality persistently more than what we attempt to know of it is its continuous generation of various permutations at multiple levels.

The process and the result of this emergence is described as at once cumulative and synergistic – that “the operations of the higher level cannot be accounted for solely by the laws governing the lower level in which we might say the higher level is rooted and from which we might say it was emergent.” (Bhaskar 2008, p.113).

I thus apply emergence to help elucidate what I describe to be two of the resultant and three of the emergent properties of migrant illegality:  the former describing its cumulative or aggregative nature drawn from its component parts and the latter describing what has resulted from the synergy of its component parts.  The possibility of the more which the critical realist concept of emergence enables moves me to qualify that while my description of these five theorized properties of migrant illegality is drawn from the Empirical (what I observed – as I cite case snippets and other bases of my observations) that this may only be a subset of the Actual (what may be in addition to what I observed) and thus all my arguments will be describing, if at all,  only a part of what is Real (the Empirical and Actual and all other future emergent combinations) (Bhaskar 1975, p.13 cited in Collier 1994, p.34).  

Elder-Vass (2010) defines an emergent property as "one that is not possessed by any of the parts individually and that would not be possessed by the full set of parts in the absence of a structuring set of relations between them" and a resultant property as "properties of a whole that are possessed by its parts in isolation, or in an unstructured aggregation."  Properties then of a migrant illegality whole arising from the particular ways immigration control technology, the migration legal framework, compliant migrant utilizers, migrant productivity, collaboration with foreign entities, geographic focus, and blocking of housing access interrelate may be specific only to the migrant illegality or in both migrant illegality and each of these seven component parts individually.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Compatriot Mechanism

The Compatriot Mechanism is defined as inputs provided and processes catalyzed by ethnic pockets, occurring in the DS and SS spheres of the SMIF (of Figure 11) and impacting SRS duration and productivity (of Figure 13), resulting in the sustenance of migrant illegality.

To be sure, that established compatriots help newly-arriving or struggling fellow migrants in a variety of ways is empirically established.  Employment continuity through referrals, preferential ethnic-based hiring and overall information dissemination (Liu-Farrer 2011) and facilitation in accessing health and other government social security services are among the critical benefits of a well-cultivated and maintained ethnic network.  

But do ethnic pockets help their members equally regardless of legal status?  Put differently, are there special ways that ethnic pockets harness their unique local embeddedness and integration that sustain migrant illegality?  Applying the SRS within the SMIF allows a more targeted operationalization of the Compatriot Mechanism.

Input Provided: Negation of Duration Control

Temporally, cTm first activates when it plays a central role in rendering impotent duration control by the SRS.  Through the SMIF we understood that the origin of the migrant (i.e. his/her eligibility) does not determine ensuing destination (i.e. legal status).  Thus, it must be clarified that cTm activates even before the migrant violates the duration specification of his visa, that is, even before the migrant goes over his authorized duration of stay (a.k.a overstays).  Figure 15 shows the four specific roles that cTm assumes in its negation of duration control.

Figure 15:  SRS – Four Roles of Compatriot Mechanism (cTm)

cTm as Starter

Their sheer presence, eventual longevity and consistent functioning as breadwinners to family and/or extended networks of dependents back in their home countries crystallizes into a strong beacon, a blueprint of how their core impediments (skill level) to financial stability can be overcome through the highly-differentiated and thriving Japan labor market.  Simply put, the cTm message is thus: even if one is unskilled in the Philippines and would most surely be unemployed, if transplanted into Japan through migration, one can surely eek out some basic form of economic sustainability.  Beyond being passive role models, cTm even becomes pro-active when migrant illegality is encouraged, planned for, and financed from Japan.  

Textbox 1 presents two case snippets  showing cTm as starter (an input) of the newly-starting overstayer resulting in a negation of SRS duration control (an output)in the DS and SS spheres of the SMIF.

cTm as Enabler

The benefits of cTm as a starter extend over time when cTm as enabler plays out.  As enablers ethnic pockets provide life-sustaining inputs that are otherwise inaccessible to overstayers due to their lack of legal status.  Housing and mobile phones, owned or under contract by legally resident Filipinos, are commonly shared with compatriots in need regardless of legal status.  The higher vulnerability of overstayers to health problems due to their work situation -- that is, having to take any work under any terms and any conditions -- is where cTm as enabler comes in.  Through contacts cultivated with various persons in authority, in turn validated and strengthened by the networks of Japanese spouses, cTm mobilizes resources that enable overstayers to access critical health services, thus prolonging their stay.  Japanese employers also participate in cTm as enablers when they: a) assign Japanese names to overstayer hirees to use as aliases in required worker listings for public works contracts, b) enter into lease contracts for apartments in which they allow overstayers who work for them to live in, or c) pay upfront for health expenses of their overstayer workers which are then paid back regularly through salary deductions.  Textbox 2 presents case snippets of cTm as enabler. 

cTm as Safety Net

As a safety net, cTm is both a proactive and reactive input to sustaining migrant illegality.  When overstayers are arrested, ethnic pockets employ various strategies and tactics to interface and dialogue with local authorities in order to effect their release (reactive).   Japanese employers consistently implement a fine-tuned and proven overstayer arrest avoidance protocol (proactive).  Compatriots are always alert and quick to disseminate information among overstayers that may be relevant to reducing arrest risks.  Textbox 3 shows examples of cTm as safety net.

cTm as Legalizer

One of the ways overstayers can achieve legal status is through marriage with either a Japanese national or a non-Japanese permanent resident (see d2, e2 in Figure 11).    Notwithstanding procedural safeguards to ensure authentic marriages, ineligible (currently married) overstayers nevertheless find ways to skirt these rules.  To be sure, fraudulently consummated marriages remove only the omnipresent arrest risk of overstayers but their illegality persists albeit now masked in bogus legal status.  Thus now doubly illegal in status, overstayers become overstaying 'illegal residents,' still under the risk of deportation if found out.  Harder for authorities to detect are authentic marriages (both parties eligible) but inauthentic arrangements, sometimes called convenience marriages, where both parties benefit: the overstayer gaining legal status, the permanent resident gaining companionship or some form of financial gain.  Still, given the straightforward economic existence of overstayers, the benefits of legalization through marriage may not be worth the consequences or the trouble.  Textbox 4 lists some examples of overstayers reaching legal status through marriage.

The Compatriot Mechanism through varied roles as starter, enabler, safety net and legalizer constitutes a magnet and anchor of migrant illegality as it negates the goal of duration control of the SRS.    Overstayers overcome what would otherwise be stunting non-functionality given their lack of legal status by tapping into critical inputs which ethnic pockets by their very nature of full integration and embeddedness into the local society are ideally poised to provide.

While Figure 14 showed us that SRS also targets to control productivity (i.e. limiting or closely controlling authorized activities across various residence statuses), a second effect of cTm as it inserts itself into the migration control formula of the SRS is a redefinition of the productivity variable, extending its scope to include the SC and SS spheres in the source country (recall Figure 11).  Negating duration limits through cTm inputs does not automatically translate to higher productivity for overstayers, in the long run. 

Without any interference from cTm, SRS formulates the variable productivity for non-ethnic-based residence statuses to be co-terminous with duration, with the exception of those it perceives to be high-value migrants (the highly-skilled).  But as cTm effects an extension of duration beyond the limits set by SRS, a key consequence is the inclusion of other variables into the formulation of opportunity cost (or opportunity loss) for the overstayer.  

Stated simply, the overstayer's extended stay inevitably impacts mainly his/her a) psychological and emotional well-being due to the self-imposed, one-way exile in Japan, b) relations with spouses and children in the source country, and, most importantly, c) his readiness for the local labor market at the time of his impending return.  The negative impacts of these inescapable trade-offs are represented by the non-linear lines in a generally downward trajectory in d1 and e1 in Figure 15.  The overstayer's short-term benefits of continued income must now be weighed against these new long-term costs created by his successful negation of SRS duration control.   

In reality, these long-term considerations on the optimum period of overstaying are rarely, if ever, in the consciousness of overstayers who, due to the inherent nature of overstaying, live on a day-to-day basis.  Indeed, the paradox of overstaying is such that the violation is named solely on the basis of time when it is precisely the absence of it, or the cumulative unawareness of the true costs of the voidness of control of time, that defines its real impact: a progressive deterioration in the quality of life of the overstayer and his significant others.  Textbox 5 describes the trade-offs involved in the process of redefinition of productivity as a result of the role of cTm on SRS.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Filipinos in Japan

If Koreans in Japan originated from Japan’s imperialist past, I would venture to say that a key feature of Filipinos in Japan – while taking place in a completely different era and context – was also born out of no less an impactful extension of influence, possibly even through explicit national policy.   No other foreigner group in Japan has completely appropriated for itself – or been allowed to totally dominate – a single visa or residence status category, that is, the entertainer category.   The numbers bear this out, without contest.

For over two decades (1980s to 2004) majority (57%) of Filipinos who came to Japan were entertainers and majority (55%) of entertainers in Japan were Filipinos (see Table 16, cells T16a-c).  The magnitude of the lopsidedness of this virtual mono-nationality situation, as it were, in the entertainer visa category is shown by the fact that the nearest competitors of the Filipina entertainers are 25-times less in size, in terms of proportion within nationality group (T16b), and 6-times less in share, in terms of total entertainers in Japan (T16c).  Beyond being the overwhelming entertainers of choice for so long a period, this flagship group of Filipino migrant workers also stayed longer in Japan (80% of all registered entertainers, T16i).

Table 16: Selected Residence Statuses (in average percentages) of Filipino Migrants Versus Other Selected Nationalities, 1987-2011
The tightening of visa rules on entry of entertainers in March 2005, while it in fact lessened significantly the total flows of entertainers (T16d), did not end the preference for Filipina entertainers (T16f).  In the 2005-2011 period, nearly seven of every ten (68%) resident entertainers were still Filipinas (T16l).

While there are no explicit figures that can trace where the excess population of Filipina entertainers went after the visa tightening, it is common knowledge (and is consistent with my respondent and key informant interviews) that those who could switched to spousal visas (SCJ) and eventually to permanent resident visas (PR).  The substantial increases in the numbers of all ethnic-based visa categories of Filipinos in both flows and stocks between the 2005-2011 (T16d,f,j,l) and 1987-2004 (T16a,c,g,i) period may support this belief.

Various narratives attempt to explain the fact that entertainers spearheaded the phenomenal growth in the numbers of resident Filipinos between 1980 and 2000 (nearly 25 times larger: from roughly 6,000 in 1980 to 145,000 in 2000) (Japan Ministry of Justice ca.2013).  Yu-Jose first highlights the difference between, on the one hand, earlier Filipino musicians in Japan in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century who played various musical instruments -- thus constituting 'real' entertainment, and, on the other hand, the more contemporary entertainers who were mostly perceived by the Japanese as prostitutes (Yu-Jose 2007, p.63).  Strict Japanese visa regulations, Yu-Jose argues, which most Filipino workers at current skill and financial resource levels could not qualify for, combined with Japanese cultural preferences excluding foreigners from certain service jobs, resulted in Filipinas embracing the entertainer work option.  Sellek similarly emphasizes the primacy of economic motivations of Filipinas taking entertainer work (Sellek 2001).  Suzuki cautions against simplistic, uni-dimensional narratives, emphasizing the historical, contextual and multi-faceted decision-making processes of the entertainer (Suzuki 2011).  Abe suggests that the peak of Japanese economic prosperity in the 1970s and 1980s spawned what he calls 'sex tourism' by Japanese male tourists throughout Asia became the foundation of the later mass entry of Filipina entertainers to Japan in the succeeding two decades (Abe 2009).

I will purposely limit my dialogue with the narratives I cited above to cover only how the phenomenon of the Filipina entertainer contributed to the sustenance of migrant illegality in Japan.  The main point I would like to make is that specific historical conditions created the ubiquitous Filipina entertainer and this, in turn, became a stepping stone into ethnic-based statuses – as spouses of Japanese, and subsequently as permanent residents, or through their offspring, as children of Japanese, or through their descendants now entering Japan as long term residents.

The entertainer visa represented for the Filipinos what the SPR visa was for the Koreans and Chinese and what the LTR visa was for the returning Brazilian descendants of Japanese (T16h,i,k,l): that is, a catapult to the top of a pecking order of closely-calibrated, outsider access to insider information through their entry into ethnic-based residence statuses.  With much closer, more intimate and wider access to Japanese society as spouses, children and permanent residents than other residence statuses, an enculturated, fine-tuned Filipino survival sense inevitably became the default operating mode, ready to be accessed by all compatriots who needed it.

That Filipinos have consistently been among the top three groups of overstayers in Japan over the past two decades (1990s to 2012, Table 3) may indicate that these ethnic-based Filipinos in Japan, through the SMIF, provide critical sustenance to migrant illegality in Japan.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Koreans in Japan

The Status of Residence System (SRS) is significant to my theorized ‘Compatriot Mechanism’ because it mirrors vibrant ethnic populations that have successfully differentiated themselves along the unskilled-skilled divide in the local labor market of Japan.  As represented in Figure 14, SRS translates to Duration and Productivity variables that are carefully wielded by policymakers, applying them to migrant workers in ways that are consistent or supportive of the requirements of the local labor market.

The SRS concretizes and formalizes the existence of thriving foreign ethnic populations in Japan (Korean, Taiwanese) – forged thru very specific historical conditions.

Unlike other residence visa systems in other destination countries, Japan’s SRS has two extra specialized categories for those it considers permanent residents.  The status named ‘Special Permanent Resident’ is applied to Koreans and Taiwanese who were in Japan before and during World War II, including their descendants.  The status named ‘Long-Term Residents’ is applied to returning migrants who are direct descendants of Japanese overseas who, as we shall see in the succeeding discussions below, originated mostly from Brazil and other South American countries.

Lastly, the status named simply as ‘Permanent Resident’ is applied to any migrant, not part of the two specialized two categories discussed above, who is eligible for permanent residency.

The point I would like to make here is that the specific historical conditions that gave birth to these ethnic pockets – their complete embeddedness in Japanese society now actualized thru the SRS – have essentially produced individuals that have full local knowledge yet, at best, with loyalties looking inward.  Simply put, these ethnic pockets are essentially local survival experts who are eager to help compatriots in any way regardless of legal status.

On Koreans in Japan

Despite more than a century, or more than three generations, of residence in the country, the attainment of definitive legal status by Koreans in Japan has only recently (only by 1981) been fully settled.  Their legal status has swung both ends of the pendulum, so to speak, twice over.

Koreans were full foreigners as the Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity was consummated in 1876, as excluded from certain jobs by Ordinance 352 and through the protectorate period by 1905.  As an annexed state from 1910 to 1945, Koreans then became Japanese though not "true" Japanese but "colonial" Japanese (Iwasawa 1986 cited in Kearney 1998: 201).  Koreans, who were by that time technically Japanese citizens, were viewed as those from Gaichi -- external territories -- who had family registers or Koseki that were separate from those of the Naichi Japanese - or those in Japan proper (Morris-Suzuki 2010, p.43).   Koreans enjoyed the benefits of citizenship without fully receiving it, realized as it were only to the extent that they helped in serving out their economic function as a colony (Weiner 1994, p.47).   Koreans in Japan then reverted back to foreigner status by 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect but, through a special regulation, were allowed to stay indefinitely even without clear residence status (Morris-Suzuki 2010, p.114).  By 1965 when the Treaty of Basic Relations between South Korea was signed, Koreans in Japan up to the second generation who chose South Korean nationality were granted permanent resident status.  By 1981, all Koreans were granted special permanent resident status.

Decades of tenuous legal status proved fertile ground for discrimination.  This ethnic-based exclusion was most felt in employment opportunities the technical and language skills for which Koreans, now fully integrated residents, were in direct competition with local workers (Shipper 2008).  Other critical social security services (loans, scholarships, health benefits, etc) were out of reach by Koreans (Hwaji 2010).

It must be noted at this point that Koreans were not in fact being singled out in discriminatory practices which were theoretically being applied to aliens in Japan.  However, that Koreans comprised the single, most overwhelmingly dominant ethnic pocket – from a high of 80-90% of all aliens in the first decades after WWII to eventually being equaled and surpassed in number by Chinese aliens in 2007 (Japan Ministry of Justice ca.2013) – meant that Koreans bore the brunt of the pain of exclusionary policies so much so that discrimination in Japan could be said to have become nearly synonymous to discrimination against Koreans.  It didn’t help that a number of high-profile legal challenges against these discriminatory practices – notably when Pak Chong-sok sued Hitachi for employment discrimination during the 1970s (Chung 2010) and the refusal of Han Jong-Seok to have himself fingerprinted during the 1980s (Morris-Suzuki 2010) – were mounted by Koreans.

Truly, ‘too little, too late’ may be one overriding theme when thinking of Koreans in Japan.  For such an intimate ethnic group, whose members, as full Japanese citizens, had gone through two world wars with their beloved sovereign, to be kept at arm’s length, at best, even through Japan’s glorious high-growth decades, is a legacy that has inevitably ricocheted in a Korean-Japanese ethnic identity that is still in high flux.  From devoting full loyalties to their homeland as overseas nationalists, to becoming fully assimilated and thus essentially indistinguishable from the Japanese, and now struggling to carve out a differentiated-and-proudly-Korean-within-Japan niche – identity struggles called the First, Second and Third-Way (Morris-Suzuki 2010) – Koreans as an ethnic pocket, when re-interpreted as input and process within my ‘Compatriot Mechanism’ formulation, constitute, at the very least, either a neutral factor or, conversely, a wild card within the SMIF.

That Korean overstayers have consistently ranked number one for virtually most of the past two decades (1995 to 2012 – see Table 15 on next page) may be interpreted within the SMIF to mean that their neutrality or unpredictability has tilted towards becoming a vibrant sustaining factor for migrant illegality.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hi Everyone,
Sorry for my looooong absence.  I'm still here.  Just focusing on a paper, and it's consuming me totally -- investigating the links between foreigner crime and immigration in Japan.  Moved to Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture with my family just last April.  Will resume posting soon.  Dug up some interesting secondary data on Filipino crimes in Japan.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Status of Residence System

We will analyze the Status of Residence System (SRS) of Japan as an input, breakdown its expected process and intended outputs, and see how the cTm wedges itself in this equation.  Figure 13 converts the SRS into a two-axes framework.

Figure 13:  Status of Residence System (SRS) as Duration and Productivity Axes
SRS as Input:

Instituted in 1981 as Japan’s framework for immigration control (Mori 1997), SRS has two components, expressed as a formula as follows:  status or position + authorized activities = SRS (Japan Immigration Bureau 1994).  Status or position is essentially a proxy for the variable ‘duration,’ expressed in time (months/years), plotted on the x-axis of Figure 13.  Authorized activities is, I argue, a proxy for the variable ‘productivity’ – or the unit of output produced per unit of input – as plotted on the y-axis in Figure 13.   This is because “authorized activities” essentially refers to the control of the labor variable input of foreigners, that is, the right to work in Japan.

Figure 14 (below) thus plots duration against productivity, culling out four core SRS status groups.  Except for ethnic-based statuses (arrow b - Koreans/Taiwanese special permanent residents, permanent residents, Nikkeijin/Japanese descendant long-term residents, spouse/child of Japanese – to be discussed in further detail below), all statuses have residency permissions with finite durations, as shown by the direction of the arrows heading towards the left, or heading back to the source country.  Duration is correlated with productivity, that is, the greater a migrant’s type and permission to work – as shown by the steeper arrow incline, the longer the allowed periods of stay (seen thru the vertical lines along arrows) and, corollary to this, the more lenient the application of renewal requirements.

Figure 14:  SRS  – Four Status Groups
Arrow c, d and b (Specialists, etc) have zero productivity incline as they are either fully prohibited from working or are restricted to a particular type of work and a particular company.  Highly-skilled migrants (arrow a) have the greatest productivity (steepest arrow incline) since they are offered a slew of motivators – including, for example, allowing household helpers to be brought in from the source country, or allowing multiple activities (read as: work) to be done.  While there are still limits to their duration of stay(arrow heading left), the SRS system has built in generous permanent residency options (small arrows heading back to the right side) within the program.  It must also be noted though that duration limits are applied even to ethnic-based statuses which, theoretically, have no limits to their residency period in Japan (arrow heading toward right side).

SRS as Process:

Duration and productivity as SRS inputs then funnel through the Japanese bureaucracy in a process implemented by the local government and enforced by the local police.  The Alien Registration System in Japan, recently abolished and now nationalized thru the 2012 New Residency Management System, was handled previously by local governments (the role of the local government in the analysis of this paper will thus be analyzed retrospectively).  In terms of SRS enforcement, while regional or national immigration officers may also conduct inspections, raids or other immigration control activities at the local level, it is the local police that have a consistent presence at the community level.

SRS as Output:

Inputting duration and productivity rules and implemented locally by the local government and police, the intended output thus will be foreigners whose existence in the country are compliant with a defined timeframe and defined activities.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Theoretical Handle: Morphogenesis/Morphostasis

Margaret Archer’s morphogenetic approach may be better equipped than collectivism or individualism to help us achieve coherence in the research questions.  
Archer explains morphogenesis:

The ‘morpho’ element is an acknowledgement that society has no pre-set form or preferred state: the ‘genetic’ part is a recognition that it takes its shape from, and is formed by, agents, originating from the intended and unintended consequences of their activities. (Archer 1995: p.5) 

Within the term morphogenesis is its differentiating value proposition:  understanding how persons engaged in society continuously transform it.  Structure and culture may initialize default settings for society’s human occupants but, at the multiple levels in which they unavoidably and necessarily interface, synergy is inevitably achieved.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Theoretical Handle: Analytical Dualism

Archer (1995) explains that if we filter the emergence-interplay-outcome sequences through their inextricable temporal backdrop, and sever, if only analytically, the parts (structure and culture) and the people from their otherwise seamless, perpetual interaction, then the distinctness and thus the attribution of reasons is facilitated.

Archer stresses how analytical dualism is the incumbent methodology of social realism which the morphogenetic/static approach complements:

Quite simply, if the different strata possess different properties and powers and structure and agency inter alia are deemed to be distinctive strata for this very reason, then examining their interplay becomes crucial.  When applied to structure and agency, the realist social ontology entails the exploration of those features of both which are prior or posterior to one another and of which causal influences are exerted by one stratum on the other, and vice versa, by virtue of these independent properties and powers.  The ‘people’ in society and the ‘parts’ of society are not different aspects of the same thing but are radically different in kind.  This being so, then social realism implies a methodology based upon analytical dualism, where explanation of why things social are so and not otherwise depends upon an account of how the properties and powers of the ‘people’ causally intertwine with those of the ‘parts.’ (Archer 1995: p.14-15)

Archer (1995: 218-245) cites eight terms that encapsulate various configurations in structural and cultural conditioning, describing a mix-match in interests and resources.  In this study I will use only two of these eight terms of Archer’s (marked in italics).

Archer (1995) explains Necessary Complementarity as part of the structural conditioning with which agency operates.  When two or more structural factors – which may or may not have developed in conjuction with one another – find their interests and goals mutually in support of or in alignment with one another a situation of Necessary Complementarity is argued to exist.

Archer (1995) explains “constraining contradictions,” or compromise, as one type of cultural conditioning where various iterations of ideational inputs interact with structural conditioning inputs, ultimately bearing down or constraining agency.

Archer (1995) explains Contingent Compatibility, or opportunism, as a type of structural conditioning input where contingent relationships are consistent or support the interests of particular groups.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Theoretical Handle: Emergence

In the critical realist theory, the concept of emergence plays a central role in its view of reality as ontologically autonomous (Lopez 2003, p.77), that is, that what makes reality persistently more than what we attempt to know of it is its continuous generation of various permutations at multiple levels.

 The process and the result of this emergence is described as at once cumulative and synergistic – that “the operations of the higher level cannot be accounted for solely by the laws governing the lower level in which we might say the higher level is rooted and from which we might say it was emergent.” (Bhaskar 2008, p.113).

I thus apply emergence to help elucidate what I describe (starting in section to be two of the resultant and three of the emergent properties of migrant illegality:  the former describing its cumulative or aggregative nature drawn from its component parts and the latter describing what has resulted from the synergy of its component parts.  The possibility of the “more” which the critical realist concept of emergence enables moves me to qualify that while my arguments are drawn from the Empirical (what I observed – as I cite case snippets and other bases of my observations) that this may only be a subset of the Actual (what may be in addition to what I observed) and thus all my arguments will be describing, if at all,  only a part of what is Real (the Empirical and Actual and all other future emergent combinations) (Bhaskar 1975, p.13 cited in Collier 1994, p.34).  

Elder-Vass (2010) defines an emergent property as "one that is not possessed by any of the parts individually and that would not be possessed by the full set of parts in the absence of a structuring set of relations between them" and a resultant property as "properties of a whole that are possessed by its parts in isolation, or in an unstructured aggregation."  Properties then of a migrant illegality whole arising from the particular ways immigration control technology, the migration legal framework, compliant migrant utilizers, migrant productivity, collaboration with foreign entities, geographic focus, and blocking of housing access interrelate may be specific only to the migrant illegality or in both migrant illegality and each of these seven component parts individually.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Typology of Migrants

The four migrant spaces shown in the SMIF framework enable a closer analysis of the dynamics of migrant agency in “illegality.”  Skeldon (2009) explains the multiple routes that may result in migrant ““illegality”,” highlighting those processes that can move only with some measure of migrant agency, particularly the contracting of human smugglers.  Similarly, Massey (1999) makes sure to include the importance of the decision-making of migrant actors based on pre-existing plans together with three other structural determinants of international mobility.

Figure 7:  The Sustenance of Migrant Illegality Framework (SMIF)
Thus, migrant “illegality” occurring through intentional (high level), consequential or accidental agency is represented in the SMIF framework (as shown in Figure 7) by which space the arrow originates from and which space the arrow intends to go (as shown by the direction of its arrowhead).   Solid arrow lines indicate migrant regularity/legality.  Non-solid arrow lines represent migrant “illegality.”

Six types of migrants will be discussed in three groupings organized according to their origin within the SC space and their destination in the DC space.

Group 1:  Compliant Migrants

Potential migrants who meet the requirements of the destination state originate from the ‘regular’ (white) portion of the SC space (see arrows a and b in Figure 8 below).

Figure 8: SMIF by Origin/Destination Space and Variation in Agency
They are qualified and can afford the costs of becoming and maintaining themselves as regular migrants, fully intending to stay regular migrants.  There are also migrants who started out as intentional regular migrants and do become regular migrants (b1) but eventually some of them lose their legal status (b2) as a result of administrative procedures (Baldwin-Edwards and Kraler 2009) that they are unable to comply with, a situation which has been called ‘institutional irregularity’ (Abella 2000 cited in Baldwin-Edwards and Kraler 2009).

Group 2:  Non-Compliant Migrants

Not all potential migrants in the SC space meet the quality standards set by destination states, mainly: an education, skills, experience.   Originating from the shaded area in the SC space are potential migrants (see Figure 9 below) who propel themselves into qualified status, acquiring required credentials through any means possible.  

Figure 9: SMIF by Migrant Qualifications and Intended Destination Space
Those who invest what are small fortunes relative to their asset base but employ only legal methods to acquire credentials are determined to stay regular migrants (arrow c), succeed in doing so (c1), but may also fall out of regularity due to administrative factors (c2).

With equal migrant determination though opposite in selection of means and ultimate destination some migrants are fully aware that that they cannot enter destination states legally with their current credentials.  They thus acquire credentials fraudulently, enter into the DC space legally, but with the clear objective of violating the terms of their visa and losing their legal status (d1).  
One compelling question among c2 and d1 migrants is whether they aspire to regain legal status?  Stated differently, was the quality of their lives as migrants with legal status inherently better than their lives without it?  Ultimately, the paths to regain legal status made available by destination states – occurring in the DC space and prompting corresponding responses occurring in other spaces –may play some role in their decision-making to aim for regularisation but are, in fact, far from defining it.  
For example, unlike in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal where the frequent staging of regularisation programs virtually become the de-facto immigration management tactic (Baldwin-Edwards and Kraler 2009), Japan’s attempts at introducing proactive strategies to lessen its overstayer population has been conflicted, at best.  Overstayers are offered a reduction in the length of the re-entry ban (from five years to one year) or a chance to apply for the ‘Special Permission to Stay’ and regain their legal status(Japan Immigration Bureau, 2004; Japan Immigration Bureau ca.2005).  Yet this applies only to overstayers who voluntarily surrender and only to those where overstaying is the only violation committed.  Considering that many overstayers enter Japan through the d1 route and knowing that their fraudulent entry is another violation, it becomes simpler and more practical to stay without legal status.   

This will be discussed in more detail at later parts of this paper but suffice it to say at this point that the overstayers’ decision not to take the voluntary surrender route to regain legal status does not deter his determination to legalize his stay.  Given sustenance by compatriots in the DS space and buoyed by validation sustenance from significant others in the SS space, some overstayers are able to secure legal status though still thru fraudulently means (d2).  The badly-designed voluntary surrender program aimed at reducing the number of overstayers in Japan now acting in confluence with pre-existing, sustenance inputs in other spaces ends up reinforcing irregularity rather than reducing it.

Group 3:  “Directly Illegal” Migrants

Whereas migrants in Group 1 (a and b) and Group 2 (c and d) had varying origins within the SC space, all reached the destination state passing through its legal entry points though with varying authenticity of documentation.  Group 3 migrants skip legal entry points altogether and enter straight into illegal status (see Figure 10 below).

Figure 10: SMIF by Direct Migrant Illegality Route
When land or sea borders of a destination state allow it, economic migrants (those seeking work) who otherwise would not qualify to receive legal entry permission choose this most direct entry path though often also the most perilous (arrow e).  Some of these migrants are able to gain legal status fraudulently (e2).  Those under some form of persecution at their home country, or under life-threatening situations due to a natural disasters or wars may also enter – by force of circumstance – not through the legal entry points (arrow f).  Their departure impetus defines their goal of achieving regular refugee or asylum-seeking status (f2) though those not granted such may then lose legal status (f1).

Summary of Migrant Topology

Figure 11 below presents the six migrant types (arrows a-f) altogether.  

Figure 11: SMIF Summary by Migrant Origin and Migrant Space
This allows us to theorize two critical points on the dynamics of migrant spaces, that is, the interplay between migrant origin (or migrant eligibility), migrant destination (or migrant goals and aspirations) and migrant entry route, as follows:

1. Migrant origin (i.e. eligibility) alone does not determine migrant destination (i.e. which portion within each migrant space).  

- Ineligible potential migrants (c, d, e, f) may acquire credentials through any means in order to pass through legal entry points, if those are the only possible entry routes given the destination country’s geography, but may still target and achieve both legal status (c1, d2, e2, f2) and illegal status (c2, d1, e1, f1).

- Conversely, eligible potential migrants (a, b) achieve legal status in destination states (a, b1) but may also, inadvertently or consequentially, fall into illegal status (b2, c2).

2. Migrant space alone does not define migrant legal status, or the absence of it.

- There may be irregular migrants fraudulently occupying regular migrant spaces (see trajectory of arrow d).  

- There may also be potential migrants with valid humanitarian reasons yet without valid documentation who enter via the irregular migrant spaces (f) and gain legal status (f2) or fail to secure or are denied legal status (f1).

Migrants with prior fraudulent transactions (d, e) may have no recourse but to reinforce or repeat their administrative infractions in ultimately gaining legal status in regular migrant space (d2, e2).

This section described four migrant spaces – DC, DS, SC and SS – within which “illegality” is theorized to be caused and to be sustained.   We saw that “illegality” is not forced upon the migrant from purely external sources.  Instead, its causation and sustenance involves varying degrees of migrant agency, as seen in the various migrant types discussed above.   The complex nature of “illegality” is seen in the virtual seamlessness and homogeneity of the theorized four migrant spaces as both origin space and destination space are not in themselves co-determinants of the other. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Micro Description of “Illegality” in the Social System

International migration taking place within today’s nation state model is conceived in the inescapable duality of a source state and a destination state.  The nation state to which a national owes his nationality is the source state, sometimes also referred to as the origin country.  The nation state within which a national from an origin state finds his current residence is the destination state, sometimes also referred to as the host country.   A national not physically in his origin state and holding residence in a destination state for a period of more than one year is called a migrant.  

I make a distinction between two key points within the life cycle of migrant ““illegality”,” that is, its causes and its sustenance.   At this point it is worthy to note that the life cycle of “illegality” has not seen its end point as “illegality” persists up to the present day.  Individual migrants who are “illegal” may be deported, thus ending their “illegal” status applied by the destination state and reclaiming their default legal status in their origin state.   But we can conceive “illegality” as a process that persists and has not seen its end despite termination of individual “illegality” since new “illegal” migrants promptly replace them in the destination state.  Causes of “illegality” then are those variables that are said to produce or be the impetus to its creation.   Sustenance of “illegality” refers to the variables that, one, determine the duration of “illegal” tenure of individual migrants and, two, define the perpetuation of the process of “illegality.”

Four migrant spaces can then be derived from the juxtaposition of the origin/destination duality and the cause/sustenance life cycle points, as shown in Figure 7 below.

Figure 7:  The Sustenance of Migrant Illegality Framework (SMIF)
Causes(C) and Sustenance (S) of migrant “illegality” occur at both the Destination (D) and Source (S) states, as reflected in the four migrant spaces – DC, DS, SC, SS.  Migrant ““illegality”,” represented by the shaded areas, is located within each of the four migrant spaces.  These four migrant “illegality” sub-areas, in turn, form their own coherent whole spanning causes and sustenance in both destination and source countries.  

The interaction among the four SMIF migrant spaces can be best described as systemic in that each aspect or action occurring in one space (done by a migrant or spurred by a policy impetus) will always have a counterpart aspect or action in any of the other spaces that result in either complementation or negation of effect.  All four spaces are essential components of a systemic whole.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Bilog Life in Japan: An Overview of Issues and Challenges

When a migrant worker leaves for work, he voluntarily inflicts on himself a form of solitary confinement, sucking out all that is familiar to him, all things on which his life, up to that point of departure, has depended on.

Unable to communicate in the local language, he struggles to recapture in the foreign land some sense of the old, the usual. Food is relegated to the simplest (fried everything), to the essentials (boiled everything), that is, until he can read food labels properly, at which time, he can then progress to maybe stewed or sautéed dishes. Family contact is, at best, 1% of the intensity with which Filipino families are famous for. The use of the internet and high-tech communications can never replace human touch, a deep glance at a child's eye, a warm, tight hug.

Life for a migrant worker very quickly degrades into a dry, empty existence. Drag oneself out of bed, coffee for breakfast, off to work, toil for long hours, come home dead tired, drink, sleep. The robotic routine repeats itself day in and day out, and at the end of the first year, the migrant worker's vitality is all but totally jettisoned. Conjugal intimacy becomes a figment of his imagination.

The migrant worker is lonely and alone. Can it get any worse?


The irregular migrant worker suffers all that a regular one does plus three other seemingly insurmountable human conditions.

First, he lives in constant fear that he can be arrested anytime, and, in a blink of an eye, his world will come crashing down on him. Perpetually looking over his shoulder and second-guessing every move he makes, public places are shunned, personal histories never narrated. The lesser the people who know him the better it is. He intentionally makes himself invisible to society. He is essentially, non-existent. He is not there.

Second, he can forget ever seeing his family again, and for any human being, any family man this strikes at the deepest recesses of the heart and soul. His family is essentially dead to him, and he, to them, unless he turns himself in (or gets regularized through some stroke of cosmic luck). Regular migrants can go on vacation when they can't bear any longer the separation. Irregulars are forced to numb out the pain of missing their families through any means they can: drinking, prayer, and for others, extra marital relations.

Alone, in constant fear and cut-off permanently from his significant others, we now come to the third, possibly the heaviest cross of the irregular migrant: he is unwanted. We are social beings, and at the very core of our humanity is an intense need to belong, to be recognized, to be acknowledged.
The Filipino migrant worker can conquer the loneliness, bravely face the fear of arrest, and suffer the pain of his self-ostracizing -- all in the name of eking out a living to be able to feed the hungry mouths that depend on him.

Despite the irregular migrant's simple goals, the society in which he finds himself in essentially wants him out. It uses him, and his physical strength as labor inputs, yet, in the same breath, denies him acknowledgement of his existence.

Host societies stamp the term "illegal" on the unwanted migrant yet how is it that smaller national boundaries - on which a country's constitution is narrowly applied - supersedes the bigger boundaries of the earth, where a wider human law prevails?  Might the unstoppable forces of globalization force us to view irregulars as simply geographically-displaced breadwinners on a mission?

One in every ten Filipinos is a migrant. Majority of Filipino migrants leave primarily to work. Remittances reached a whopping US$16.4 billion in 2008, 4th highest in the world and unchallenged in most of Asia.

This proud patriotism comes at a high cost. Children, indeed, are wrested away from crippling poverty yet they struggle to rebuild a life without a defining, loving anchor, one or both parents. The migrant worker, torn from all things familiar, suffers untold desolation in a foreign land. His once vibrant life quickly degrades into a dry, empty existence.

Can it get any worse? Yes.

Too conveniently forgotten is that, disturbingly, one in every five Filipino migrant workers is irregular, that is, TNT ("Tago Ng Tago" in the vernacular), literally translated as "always hiding." Public places are shunned, personal histories never narrated. He is physically there, but essentially non-existent. His family is dead to him, and he, to them, unless he turns himself in and is deported back home. Forcibly numbing out the pain of all these, he confronts yet his greatest cross: he is unwanted, denying his intense need to belong, to be recognized, to be acknowledged. Yet the Filipino heart and spirit is resilient in adversity, persisting against all odds - all in the name of eking out a living to feed the hungry mouths that depend on him.  He is a displaced breadwinner, surviving unwanted - at all costs.

What makes a migrant illegal: the person, his actions, or his context?

Migrants who have no permission to stay in a host country object to being called illegal migrants. If the host country's rules or laws (the migrant's "context") require migrants to have permission in order to continue staying within its borders, then not having permission is, in fact, an illegal or unlawful act, that is, an act prohibited or not authorized by law.

The issue is the association of the word illegal with the word criminal. Illegal migrant is taken to mean criminal migrant. Can the things that illegal migrants do -- backbreaking, honest, hard work to support a needy family back home -- be considered crimes? This is the central argument of those that repel at being referred to as illegal migrants.

All crimes are illegal. But not all illegal acts are crimes. Rape, murder and plunder are crimes. The perceived severity of the act -- or the degree to which it goes against widely accepted societal norms -- is key to an act being considered a crime. Which widely held societal norms does migration without permission violate?

Compounding the issue are the naming practices currently in use. The name given to the person who commits a crime (i.e. rapist, murderer, plunderer) refers more to the crime he committed rather than to the person himself. But why does the term "illegal migrant" refer more to the migrant himself (or the person himself) being illegal? The term illegal migration seems to be less contentious (than the term illegal migrant) because it focuses on the act and not on the person.

History has proven that irregular migration is unstoppable.  States have tried nearly all possible interventions at keeping migration within the parameters of the ‘regular‘ process, yet the irregular migrant still persists.  It is also unclear if irregular migrants who are eventually deported choose to re-integrate back into the communities they left or if their resolve remains unaffected and they simply try again, departing for the same or another country at the first chance they get.
What can explain the futility of efforts at suppressing irregular migration?  Is it simply the resiliency of the migrant to adapt to adverse conditions in the host country?  Could certain societal factors germane to both the source and destination countries also be facilitating and/or hindering this adaptation?

Filipino irregular migrants are called “Bilog” which, in the Filipino vernacular, means round, signifying their lack of direction, their nothingness, their selective invisibility to the society which their cheap labor supports.

Through in-depth conversations with current and past Filipino irregular migrant workers during a 36-month period of intensive participant observation, a number of innovative and practical survival tactics and strategies were identified.  These practices enable the irregular migrant worker to persevere in the host society, even thriving to hitherto unreached potential when a confluence of societal forces cooperate with his own investment of effort, diligence, sacrifice and guts.
In their workplaces, Bilogs use Japanese names and have learned to gently leverage other available competing job offers to keep themselves on the active worker list.  Bilogs are available for work 24x365, coming to work whenever asked, never questioning the type, time and payment.  They consciously differentiate themselves from their co-workers, developing a unique technical skill that will spell the difference between elimination and retention in the hierarchy of worker preference.  They explicitly study the cost centers of the business that employs them and, with that knowledge, surprise the owner with new ways to generate savings.

Tough restrictions and even tougher penalties on the hiring of irregular migrant workers lose their teeth as they get disempowered through the many layers of sub-contractors in the construction and demolition industries.  The Japanese waste segregation culture enables an opportunity to showcase the Filipino ingenuity for improvisation and work efficiency and opens an additional income-earning window.

Without a legal identity Bilogs are formally shut out of essentially all critical, life-sustaining services, except access to food and access to work.  A Bilog cannot rent an apartment and activate the necessary utilities.  He cannot subscribe to a phone plan, or get an internet connection.  He is not covered by health insurance nor can he avail of banking services.

Yet despite all these otherwise crippling handicaps, Bilogs persevere.  Legal Filipino residents lend their identities to Bilogs, allowing apartments to be rented, utilities to be activated, prepaid phones to be used and internet to be accessed. Bilogs are able to charge health-related expenses to insurance coverage and remittances reach the Philippines without using the formal banking system.  The local ethnic network is the all-reliable, Bilog-enabler.  Truly, no Bilog is an island.

All of the above are possible only because the Bilog stays undetected.  This is achieved largely through proactive and preventive security practices that have evolved through generations of accumulated Bilog experiences.  Most striking is an informal yet highly effective, virtual, early warning system.  Legal Filipinos currently traveling throughout a locality act as the eyes and ears of the Bilogs, advising them to avoid areas where they see random spot-checks being conducted by immigration authorities or where they witness police crackdowns.  A Bilog’s instincts are constantly on alert, knowing when incidents will automatically draw police visits (and being sure to depart from that area) and purposely avoiding travel paths that will intersect with known police visibility areas.

 For the Bilog, avoiding trouble is paramount.

Are Bilogs content with just staying without legal status?  Ultimately, no.  The single, most effective survival strategy is to get on the mainstream, to legalize one’s self.  Bilogs avail of regularization windows when they are offered by the government, quite rarely at that.  Most create their own legalization opportunities. Necessary documentary evidence is manufactured, wiping clean records of a previous marriage in the Philippines, thus now allowing a marriage to a Filipino legal resident or Japanese national.   The former example of regularization is authentic, the latter, bogus.  A Bilog will take any kind of regularization as long as it allows him to continue to work in Japan.

If irregular migration cannot be stopped, what does its future look like?  States will continue to suppress it and potential, current and past irregular migrants will continue to adapt and innovate – both operating within the current societal configuration.  The tie breaker will be resolve, states powering theirs with resources, irregular migrants, with dire need.
Which side will prevail?