Overturning a lower court ruling, the Tokyo High Court on Friday ruled that a Japan-born Filipino girl given a deportation order in 2012 should be allowed to stay, on account of her deep integration with Japanese society.

The rare immigration ruling might herald a shift in Japan’s tendency to hastily deport illegal but deeply settled immigrants, lead lawyer Yuka Kubota said after the ruling.

Last December, the Tokyo District Court validated a deportation order issued to the girl, then 14, and her Filipino parents in 2012. While finding the girl’s deportation order illegal, the high court judged the orders issued to her parents as valid.

Noting her exemplary academic performance and long history in Japan, the presiding judge, Toshio Yamada, said the girl has shown “extremely strong integration” into society and shouldn’t be blamed for “circumstances she had no control over,” noting it wasn’t until she was 12 that she learned her family had been residing illegally.

“Repatriating her now would cause her to experience vast difficulties adjusting to local lifestyles and acquiring a new language, not to mention keeping up her academic performance and building new friendships. All of these would cause irreparable damage to her,” the judge said.

The girl’s parents used fake passports to enter Japan, the father arriving in 2002 and the mother in 1997.

The father originally came to Japan in 1988 to look for work but after was convicted in 2001 of overstaying his visa and injuring three people in a car accident, forcing him to leave the country. He re-entered Japan in 2002 by faking his identity to reunite with his wife and daughter, who was born in 1998.

“It’s common knowledge that foreigners are almost destined to lose when demanding withdrawal of their deportation orders,” said Kubota, the lawyer.

“It’s often been the case that immigration officials pay little heed to kids’ histories in Japan and the possible effects on their future before signing deportation orders. I believe this ruling will change that tendency,” she said.

Kubota said the family has not yet decided what the next step will be but wants to stay in Japan.

She also asked that the names and whereabouts of the family not be disclosed to protect their privacy.

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