The clock is ticking for an undocumented Filipino couple in Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, who must decide by Monday whether to leave the country with or without their 13-year-old Japan-born daughter.
If the pair stay, they face detention. If they leave, the girl must fend for herself.
“We will tell the Immigration Bureau on March 9 that we want to stay in Japan together (with our daughter),” said Arlan Cruz Calderon, the girl’s 36-year-old father.
Calderon said he would volunteer to leave the country if his daughter, Noriko, was old enough to take care of herself or young enough to adapt to life in the Philippines.
“But I don’t want her to waste the studies she has done and the friends she has made in 13 years,” he said in an interview Tuesday with The Japan Times.
Noriko Calderon, who is in her first year of junior high school, is adamant about staying as well.
“I want to stay in Japan with my parents,” she said after coming back from chorus practice with her school friends. While dealing with the issue has been tough, she is “determined to study hard and wants to thank her friends who have been supportive.”
All five of the friends said she should try to stay with her parents in Japan.
The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau told the Calderon couple on Feb. 27 that they would have to leave the country because they entered Japan on fake passports. After the Supreme Court rejected their plea to stay last September, they were freed from detention in October so they could get ready to leave. Weighing in on the case, Justice Minister Eisuke Mori said their daughter could stay on humanitarian grounds.
The U.N. Human Rights Council asked the government in mid-February to provide information on the case within 30 days, but Mori reportedly said policy won’t be altered just for the Calderons.
Human rights lawyer Shogo Watanabe, who is representing the family, argued that the government should at least have the UNHRC examine the case before forcing the parents to make a decision by Monday.
“Japan should not take such a measure as a member of international society,” he said. “A request from the UNHRC may not have legal force, but Japan should not deport the family before submitting the information to the international organization.”
The girl’s mother, Sarah, 38, entered Japan at the age of 22 in 1992 on another person’s passport. As the eldest of six brothers and sisters, she said she had to quit university to come to Japan to work to support her family. Her father also quit college in 1993 to come to Japan and help her.
“I had to work extremely hard to live a normal life here,” the construction worker said, adding that he often worked through the night.
After the mother was arrested for breaking the Immigration Law in 2006, the family asked the government to let the three of them stay in Japan together. But the Supreme Court rejected their case last year.
“After all, illegal entry is illegal, and I believe it must be handled appropriately in line with the law,” Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone told a news conference Tuesday. Arlan said he is now “really sorry” about entering illegally. However, he also held out hope the government would understand how much they sacrificed for their daughter.
“I hope the Immigration Bureau would understand my wife and I worked really hard and raised Noriko for 13 years in Japan,” he said, fearing that Noriko, who doesn’t speak Tagalog, will have to start school as a first-grader if she goes to the Philippines.