Friday, January 16, 2015

Conceptualizing an Accretive Migrant "Illegality"

The second way to think (conceptualize) about migrant “illegality” is that it is accretive.  By “accretive” I mean that at any given point in time the specific and current nature of the “Illegality” that is transacted by its vested interests is at once initialized from its previous forms but not explained by them.

I must immediately qualify here that I purposely use the word “initialized” and not “produced by” or “determined by.”  This is so that I can qualify that, while accretion is, strictly speaking, a cumulative process, the accretive “illegality” I am suggesting here is a relationally emergent one (Elder-Vass 2010) with a constitution not wholly attributable to its component parts and coming into form as a result of the specific interaction and relations between these same parts.

This we saw through our interrogation of the concept of the unskilled through Japan’s recent history.  I argued that an accretive cultural or ideational conditioning of “illegality” that rendered the application of exclusion/inclusion rules vague, at best, make an “illegality” based on membership tenuous, at the very least, or unsustainable, at the very most.

To further this argument of mine I discussed the Korean and Filipino cases of ethnic pockets in Japan where historical events combined with the inability or unwillingness by the state to effect full integration conditioned a conception of “illegality” that is exhaustive in breadth and in depth. Ideational currents concerning “Illegality” in Japan can then be said to be, in a sense, “supersized” or “loaded,” waiting for triggers in the present era to unleash its hibernating venom.  In the case of the trivial or clinical aspects of “illegality” (its straightforward enforcement of duration and limitations on allowed economic activity), Japan is similar to other present day host countries.  But in the case of an “illegality” supersized by historical events, the Japan case is both unique and particular both in how it kept at arm’s length its once-colonized, now fully-embedded ethnic pockets.

That the cultural conditioning of migrant “illegality” is accretive in Japan has then at least two significant implications to consider.  Once again, how and where these points become relevant depends on the perspective of the vested interests interrogating each point.  And, the reader is cautioned here that my argued relevance does not automatically translate to or predetermined action as an accretive migrant “illegality” is a mere conditioning input that, in the end, is consummated into particular action by active agency.

The first significant implication of an accretive migrant “illegality” in Japan is to wonder if the current cumulative++ outcome of present day “illegality” manifests in themes that ultimately deter new “illegality” aspirants or still motivate current “illegality” participants to dig in and persevere longer.  In other words, in the case of the migrant, knowing that migrant “illegality” is accretive and thus banking on some kind of historical input to current action on “illegality” (which could be either leniency or strictness in implementing current migration policy) will he/she still invest in attempting legal entry but with the actual plan of overstaying or will he still persist longer?  On the other end of the spectrum, in the case of the host state, will an accretive migrant “illegality” be a conditioning input that argues for further repression of “illegality” or one that inspires policy aimed at leveraging unstoppable human mobility to secure Japan’s long-term demographic sustainability?

On this first point, I argued that Japan has chosen a continued path of repression of migrant “illegality” as seen in its recent actions (I cited three instances: 1) the APCCRS in 2003; 2) the further polarization in income gaps between the highly skilled and those doing “illegal” work;  3) the heightened racial profiling seen in recent policing trends.  On the side of the migrant – based on narrations of encounters with local authorities – I argued that there is a heightened dichotomy between local and national implementation of migrant policies with the former being more lenient given its relative invisibility and thus insignificance with national sentiments while the latter has to simultaneously project strict enforcement of status quo.

The second significant point that an accretive migrant “illegality” brings to the fore is to wonder which of the previous layers of ideational conditioning have been subsumed/integrated to the core issue (of membership) to a degree that they are mainstreamed/institutionalized and thus become constant inputs to present-day decisions; and which layers remain peripheralized and are thus still largely dependent on the whims of policy makers if they are to be considered at all in present-day policy making.

On this second point, I argued that the “unwantedness” layer on oldcomer ethnic pockets has largely been resolved on the level of legality but not on the level of continued heightened stigma (recall case of errant bus driver found to have Chinese ethnicity).  This unwantedness layer could not be projected to newcomer migrants (and the overstayers among them) given that the legal basis that spawed their entry was instituted by the host state itself.  But the trivial layer of duration and activity limits is now selectivey applied by the host state depending largely on the visibility of the decision.

To summarize this second section, the view that migrant “illegality” in Japan is accretive is significant in explaining that current decisions by the host state on human mobility are impacted by both ideational conditioning and by present-day imperatives.

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