Wednesday, June 26, 2013

(Divergence) "Illegality" as Legal Status

Japan’s stance (as the host state actor) on the role of human mobility (international migration into Japan) as a threat rather than a catalyst to its long-term viability given its impending demographic liabilities operationalizes “illegality” as a status used to mitigate this perceived threat.  Thus “Illegality” as a status becomes a control mechanism formalized in the SRS that, in turn, legitimizes control in society-wide, structural manifestations such as the APCCRS.

The Philippine stance (as source state actor) on “illegality” as legal status is that it is essentially a handicap or consequence that the migrant alone assumes, and for which accountability is only to the host state.  The unbridled exodus of Filipina entertainers for nearly two decades, resulting in the Philippines having the highest percentage of female overstayers among the top countries with overstayers in Japan; the discontinuity of the relevance of the status “overstayer” immediately upon deportation (unlike in the case of traditional crimes with penalties recognized and implemented regardless of national boundaries); even the unmitigated re-entry of previously deported overstayers given the relative ease in acquiring bogus documentation – all show a utilitarian approach to “illegality” as status, that is, that any and all remittances from migrants are welcome regardless of the legal status under which they were earned.

Employers of overstayers, even if located in the host state, are classified in the same side as the source state in the sense that “Illegality” as status is transacted for their commercial benefit.
Lastly, how the migrant appropriates “Illegality” as status is defined by his/her “initialization” or “configuration,” if you will, within the local ethnic community.  As members of differentiated ethnic pockets with legal status, the “illegal” label on compatriots is essentially a benign status.  As discussed, members of these long-entrenched ethnic pockets even catalyze the sustenance of “illegality” through various roles.  For the overstaying migrant – the majority of whom belong to Group 2: Non-Compliant Migrants  – “illegality” as status is far from benign (as it constitutes an omnipresent threat to their continued presence in Japan) but hardly deters them from working towards their economic goals.  This non-deterence, as my overstayer respondents stress, is not due to overwhelming courage nor preference for the difficult but rather due to the fact that “Illegality” as status is simply a point of no return for them.

Thus, the divergence in conceptions of “Illegality” as status brought about by the vested interests of the three main actors in migration can be said to be non-exeptional, even predictable.  The host state transacts “illegality” as a control strategy which is understandably flaunted by vested interests that are in opposition with the interests of the host state.  This is because, in their view, the immediate/short-term economic benefits (remittances for the source state, manpower savings for employers, absolute earnings for overstayers) justify risks taken in this flaunting.