Powerful Authority, Foreigners Who Have the Power of Life and Death in Their Hands… Former Immigration Bureau Officials Experienced the Fearful Reality of the “Immigration Bureau Black Box | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Powerful Authority, Foreigners Who Have the Power of Life and Death in Their Hands… Former Immigration Bureau Officials Experienced the Fearful Reality of the “Immigration Bureau Black Box

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The Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Agency. The Immigration Bureau has a powerful authority to make decisions that are not written in the law, and its decision-making criteria are still in a “black box.

At first, I was dazzled by the power of the Immigration Bureau. I was dazzled by the amount of power and authority that came with the job. ……I have to admit that I had a power orientation somewhere in my mind. ……”

So says Yoichi Kinoshita, 59, a former employee of the Immigration Bureau, who retired from the Immigration Bureau in 2007. After retiring from the Immigration Bureau in 2007, he published a book titled “Immigration Bureau Black Box: Drifting Immigration Administration and Tossed Around Foreigners” in August of this year, based on his own experience at the Immigration Bureau and research at a graduate school. Currently, he is thinking about immigration issues while working at an administrative scrivener’s office. The immigration bureaus have a great deal of authority, but they are allowed too much discretion in their decisions. It is rare and valuable to have someone who has been involved in immigration administration as a practitioner talk about the actual situation.

In fact, Kinoshita’s first job as a public servant was not at the immigration bureau.

After graduating from university, I first entered the Public Security Intelligence Bureau, where I worked for 12 years. It was a place that investigated left-wing groups, etc., but it had almost no authority, and even though it was investigating left-wing groups, it could not tackle them with force, nor did it have the organizational power of the police. It was difficult to see results, and I felt that I was lacking.

In 2001, Kinoshita was transferred to the Immigration Bureau. He felt that the Immigration Bureau, with its great authority, was a very rewarding job. For the first two years, he worked in the fact-finding department, visiting sites of fake marriages and fake employment.

It was a time after the bubble had burst, and there was a kind of chaos that followed. It was a time when there were reports of people of Middle Eastern descent selling counterfeit telecas and trafficking in shabu in Ueno. The year I was transferred to the Immigration Bureau, 9/11 happened and I was greatly shocked.

I felt that it was not enough to be welcoming to foreigners; we had to take a hard look at them. I was also involved in immigration work at the airport. I think people have the image of me simply stamping a stamp, but I also took pride in the fact that I prevented dangerous foreigners from entering the country and protected the security of Japan at the water’s edge,” he said.

However, Mr. Kinoshita gradually began to feel uncomfortable with the work of the Immigration Bureau. This was triggered, he says, when he moved to the Yokohama Immigration Bureau’s Referral Division in 2006 and came into direct contact with overstayers and people deported for crimes and other reasons.

Basically, they are deported,” he said. However, not all people who violate the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act are deported, and some are granted special permission to stay while others are not. The Immigration Control Act doesn’t describe the criteria for this, and it is left to the great discretion of the Immigration Bureau. I was beginning to feel more and more that this discretion was being measured by the immigration bureau’s extremely arbitrary and subjective yardstick.

Under the current Immigration Control Act, special permission to stay is granted to those subject to deportation, such as overstays, “when the Minister of Justice has special circumstances that require permission to stay ……”. Certainly, there are no criteria stated in the law. In other words, it is up to the “discretion” of the Immigration Bureau.

I have no intention of denying the discretion itself,” he said. However, I believe that the free-hand discretion is nothing more than administrative complacency in the end. …… One thing in particular that didn’t make sense to me was the repatriation of children.

When two overstayed foreigners marry and have a child together, the child does not have a visa and grows up as it is. Some of these children can only speak Japanese. Or there are cases where children are brought to Japan by their parents at an early age and the family overstays. At that time, children as young as elementary school students were not given special permission to stay in Japan and were deported with their families because they thought that they would have enough time to start over even if they were sent back to their home countries. I felt a strong sense of discomfort.

I felt that the deportation of an elementary school student was okay, but not of a junior high school student,” was just logic from an adult’s point of view. Why does the Immigration Bureau use its “discretion” to draw a line in the sand?

The family of Wishma Sandamali, 33, who died at the Nagoya Immigration Bureau in 2009, and her lawyers held a press conference in April ’23, appealing against the revision of the Immigration Control Act (Photo: Yoshio Tsunoda/Afro)

Mr. Kinoshita was aware of the problem of decisions being made solely at the discretion of the Immigration Bureau without any standards in many situations, and he felt this strongly when he was transferred from the Yokohama Immigration Bureau’s Referee Division and returned in 2004.

When I was first transferred to the Yokohama Immigration Bureau in 2006, we were in the midst of the “Five-Year Plan to Reduce the Number of Illegal Aliens by Half” (2004-2008) formulated by the Koizumi administration, and achieving this plan was a top priority for the Immigration Bureau. The goal was achieved by reducing the number of illegal aliens from about 220,000 at the time to almost half.

However, the inner story was not the result of detection and crackdown, but rather the “numerical reduction of illegal aliens by granting special residence permits to undocumented aliens and regularizing them. In order to achieve this policy, the Immigration Bureau was actively using its discretion to grant special residence permits. It was political and arbitrary, but in a sense, it could be said that the Immigration Bureau was operating under a single standard.

However, when I was transferred again to the Yokohama Immigration Referral Division, it became more difficult to get zainichi out, even in cases where they had previously been granted permission. Even those that had been allowed out for a time due to a policy campaign would not be allowed out again once that campaign had passed. …… I think that too is a matter of discretion on the part of the Immigration Bureau.”

Since the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act has no standards for judgment and everything is left to the “discretion” of the Immigration Bureau, judgments are ultimately strongly influenced by the subjectivity and sense of justice of each officer in charge. In addition, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Administrative Appeal Act do not apply to the immigration of foreigners, and there are no standards and no appeals can be filed by the parties concerned. With little means to control the discretion of the immigration bureaucracy, it is inevitable that the process will be arbitrary, and this is the root of the immigration problem, according to Kinoshita.

Yoichi Kinoshita, author of “Immigration Black Box.” He worked at the Immigration Bureau as an immigration inspector for 18 years from 2001.

Why was this excessive discretion granted to the Immigration Bureau in the first place?

Mr. Kikuchi explained, “This was very much influenced by the foreigner management policy immediately after the end of the war: the GHQ’s governing policy and foreigners at that time – mostly from the Korean Peninsula – had to ‘repatriate’ many people to the Korean Peninsula more quickly and efficiently amidst food shortages and ideological conflicts. Therefore, a lot of discretion was given to the administrative agencies in order to let them make a large number of decisions in a short period of time. Despite the fact that reality has changed dramatically since then, the old system design has been dragged down to the present day, resulting in a disconnect with reality.

Immigration officials are not ogres; they are people. That is why there are problems.

In my book, I discussed the “Hiroshima Elementary School Girl Murder Case” (November ’05). When people from other countries cause problems, immigration officials feel, ‘Why did we allow that person to enter (stay) in Japan? I think they have regrets. I think it is only natural that they would then take a hard look at those who entered (stayed) in Japan. However, if the mindset of not allowing anything in goes too far, it will lead to an “immigration mindset” of excluding people just because they are “suspicious,” even though there is no good reason to do so.

When something happens, it is a big responsibility because it is a big discretionary decision. It is natural for people to tend to make negative judgments in order to escape from such a situation. So, what can we do to eliminate this “immigration mindset”?

It is hard for the immigration bureaus to have everything thrown at them. Because they are forced to measure by the yardstick of subjectivity and a sense of justice, arbitrary decisions are made. However, if a mechanism is established to check the discretion of the Immigration Bureau, such as the establishment of a third-party organization, or if a system is established to allow for appeals, the Immigration Bureau will be more careful in its decisions, and the room for arbitrary decisions will be narrowed by having outside eyes involved.

The revised Immigration Control Act passed in June, which allows deportation of those who have applied for refugee status three or more times, has been the subject of intense debate. Kinoshita, on the other hand, appreciates the fact that special permission for residence is now based on an application system, and that the reasons for not granting permission must now be made clear. However, there are still many problems with the immigration system, including the unclear process of refugee status.

The “black box” that is the immigration bureau is still a very opaque place.

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Immigration Black Box: Drifting Immigration Administration and Tossed Around Foreigners” by Yoichi Kinoshita, published by Godo Shuppan.

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