Proposed foreigner card protested

Opponents of change to immigration law fear loss of privacy, other human rights violations

by Kazuaki Nagata

More than 200 people rallied in Tokyo’s Shinbashi district Sunday to protest government-sponsored immigration bills they claim would violate the privacy of foreign residents and strengthen government control over them.

The protesters say the proposed system would allow the government to punish non-Japanese who fail to properly report their personal information, and could even make it possible for immigration authorities to arbitrarily revoke their visas.

The bills now before the Diet “would jeopardize the residency right and right of life (for foreign residents). Therefore, we strongly oppose the bills,” said Nobuyuki Sato of Research-Action Institute for the Koreans in Japan, one of the organizers of the protest rally and a meeting on the proposed legal changes.

Under the bills as they are currently written, a new “zairyu” (residence) card would replace the current alien registration card. Under the current system, illegal immigrants can register their status with local governments and receive some public services. But they would not be able to get a zairyu card and would not be registered in the resident registration in their municipalities. This leaves some human right activists concerned that children of illegal immigrants might not be able to receive certain public services, including education.

Foreigners would be obliged to carry the new card at all times, just as with the current card. Failure to do so could result in a maximum fine of ¥200,000, the same as the current regulation.

Non-Japanese would also be required to report to the government in 14 days if they change employer or address. Otherwise they could lose their visas if they don’t report in 90 days.

The bills, which were submitted in March, propose consolidating management of foreign residents’ data under the Justice Ministry, rather than local governments as it is now.

Sato criticized the government for not bothering to solicit the opinions of foreign residents even though they are the people who would be directly affected.

During the meeting, various people, including foreign residents and representatives of labor unions, discussed the bills.

Opponents of the proposed revisions, including a number of human rights groups, say the proposed monitoring system is far too strict and could pose a violation of human rights.

Meanwhile, the LDP-New Komeito ruling coalition and the Democratic Party of Japan have reportedly agreed that Korean residents who came to Japan before or during World War II and their descendants would not be obliged to carry the new card all the time.