Undocumented Families in Japan

by Ryoma Kagawa

In 2009, a 13-year-old Filipino girl who was living in Japan was separated from her parents because they had come to Japan in an illegal manner of fake passports. After arriving in Japan, they had lived for about a decade and the girl knew the Japanese culture better than the Philippine culture; for example, she spoke Japanese as well as the Japanese do. However, the arrest of her mother uncovered their secret, and the girl was made to decide whether she would go to the Philippines with her family or she would keep staying in Japan while her family would go back, which she took the former and the family was separated.

If a family in Japan has been found that they have come illegally and their children were very small and had no choice but to follow their parents on their arrival, what should  be done? There are many arguments among the Japanese whether the government should force such undocumented families to return their own countries, allow those children to keep staying, or some other opinions. In my opinion, the government should allow the parents to keep staying with their children until they are 18 years old and then force the parents to return.

The first reason is that the separation of parents has a big influence on their children when they are adolescent. Adolescent children are usually unstable in minds and the role of parents is of great importance here. In the case of the Filipino girl above, on the day of departure, she missed her parents very much and wanted them to stay with her; they also understood her feelings and knew well that she still needed them because she was young. I think that children who grow up through adolescence without parents might behave badly and it will result in bad effects on society. The second reason is that it is a matter of human rights. For instance, children may suffer from mental illness due to the lack of parents nearby, and it may become difficult for them to be educated. I think that the example describes the violation of their human rights by the government.

While the Japanese government should restrict the entry of people in illegal ways from the point of views such as national security, I believe that it should give more consideration to undocumented families who have already come and lived in Japan from the point of views such as influences on society and human rights.


Schoolgirl told to choose: Country or parents. (2009, April 13). CNN. Retrieved June 24, 2013, from http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/04/13/japan.philippines.calderon/index.html#cnnSTCText


The Rights of Undocumented Children

by Tatsuya Haishi

Through the immigration class and the articles of newspaper, I learned the fact that there are many children who were detached from their parents due to deportation of the parents. It is very cruel for children to choose their parents or their country. I think children should be treated specially. The government gives the right of staying to the children whose parents are undocumented immigrants. Of course, I have never experienced the situation like these children have, but I am sure that nobody wants to be born as an “undocumented child.”

I think being legal or illegal will not become a problem in near future and people will no longer care about that. The world is in a period of transition at present. The laws against illegal immigrants of the developed countries including the US and Japan would be rescinded.

I believe that when we think about such difficult issues, we have to seek a better solution rather than the best one. According to one of the articles of our immigration class, there is a boy who lives in Mexico. His name is Jeffrey and his father was one of the immigrants deported in the first half of 2011 who said they had American children.

Jeffrey moved from the US because of his father’s deportation, but it is difficult for him to acclimate himself to a new environment. Many undocumented immigrants leave from their country to look for a job. While they can obtain a job, their children would also become undocumented children. When a child who does not know they are undocumented realizes that, they must be terribly shocked.

To think a better solution for such children, we should imagine what the worst situation for them is. If the parents stay their home country and do not take a job, the family would be hard to gain food and they could not live anymore. We have to put children first. We have to consider a better way for children. Laws are important and should be observed. However, at the same time, the rights of undocumented children are respectable as well. Some people might say that adults also have rights! I know that, but we can think, demand, and act. I believe that all adults have a childhood. If it is true, it ought to be obvious that we must think about children as top priority.

Undocumented Children

by Yurino Kawamura

All children have equal rights. All children must have opportunity for education, access to medical care, and right to realize their dreams. Doesn’t this apply to undocumented children?

According to Lee et al, the number of undocumented children of undocumented or illegal immigrants in Japan is estimated to be 20,000 to 30,000. Some of their parents have moved to Japan in illegal means, but others are so called over-stayers, whose visas have already been expired. In most cases, children themselves had no choice but to live in a country where their parents have chosen to work. Current Japanese law says elementary and middle schools are to offer education to children if they asked for it, regardless of their nationality, and regardless of their state of documentation. However, according to Lee’s case study, many undocumented children were still unable to go to school. Some parents simply didn’t know that undocumented children can go to public schools. Others needed their 9-year-old daughter to take care of her younger sisters when they were working in the daytime. There is no doubt that similar cases may take place in the case of Filipinos. Also, some cases are reported that educational committees refuse undocumented children. Although the law admits the children’s right, more effort should be exercised to widespread that idea into schools and committees.

It seems unbelievable, but 20 years ago, children of Japanese Brazilian workers were refused to enter elementary school by education committees, because they could not comprehend Japanese. This kind of problem roots in the attitude toward foreign people. Not only by making laws, but also by changing these people’s attitudes toward emigrants should eliminate prejudice and unequal treatments toward undocumented children. What’s even worse, even if the children are raised in the Japanese community and society, once their parents are put into custody, children are exposed to the risk of being deported. In many cases, children have to choose either to “return” to their parents’ homeland or to stay in Japan apart from their family. This is a crucial and tough choice for teenagers. Although they themselves had no choice but to survive and make a good community in the environment they were brought to, they have risk of being torn apart from it all of a sudden. Could it be said that undocumented children are treated equally?

Living in a foreign country where you cannot communicate fluently may cause a huge stress upon children. Even the children of legal emigrants face some risks such as discrimination. Facing many kinds of risks, undocumented children have much tough time to grow up. We have to think about at better way to let undocumented children live better lives.


Lee et al, “A study about a non-attendance at school / the life reality of a child in a statelessness state in Japan -From a viewpoint of International Human Rights law”, Bulletin of Social Medicine, No.23 2005 (in Japanese)