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.