The Undocumented Immigrant Problem

by Marina Kouyama

“Issue of undocumented immigrant” – the American society is now facing with this problem. In this paper, I focus on this “undocumented immigrant problem” of America at first, and then consider the situation in Japan compared with the United States.

In America today, 11.2 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to live in the country. It includes the largest number is Hispanics, Asians, Muslims and Europeans. It is the problem whether people view undocumented immigrants in a positive or negative way. People who affirm claim that undocumented immigrants are an important part of the U.S. society’s workforce even though they are “illegal.” In fact, many workers who work on a large farm are undocumented immigrants who come from Mexico and some other countries. While on the other hand, people who oppose argue that undocumented immigrant could disturb the social order, concerning that American citizens have to pay for undocumented immigrant’s medical-care cost or unemployment insurance, or undocumented people deprive American citizen of their employment opportunity. Also, it is the problem that young generation of “undocumented immigrant” are innocent because they were brought to the country by their parents.

The problem about undocumented immigrant was a controversial issue in the recent U.S. presidential election, in which Obama was reelected.

The undocumented immigrant’s issue about what to do with their visa status has been the one of big tasks of American politics. In the previous presidential election, Obama made a granting of a path to legal status for undocumented youths a campaign promise, and has been aimed to realize the enactment of the DREAM Act. However, the DREAM Act is still invalid because of the criticism from the opposition Republicans. Therefore, last June (before the election), Obama announced a new policy of undocumented immigrant. He took measure to grant temporary residential status to undocumented youths by executive order, which does not require congressional action. Young undocumented immigrants can get the status if they come to America before age of 16 years; are 30 or younger; have lived in America since 15 June 2007; graduated from or are currently in high school, or are an American soldier; have no previous records of committing crimes. It is presumed that about 0.8 to 1.7 millions of undocumented youths would be blessed with this new policy. In the recent election, Obama did not directly win the vote from them as they did not have the vote right.

However, he gained support from Hispanic-American those close to undocumented people. According to New York Times report, 71% of Hispanic-American voted for him. Attention is currently focused on future moves of Obama administration.

In contrast to sign of improvement of undocumented immigrant in the U.S., Japan’s situation is getting worse. On July 9, 2012, foreign resident registration system was abolished, due to the revision of the immigration law. Legal residents get “resident card”, meanwhile, illegal residents cannot gain it. There is fear that undocumented residents become lack of access to essential administrative services without public identification. Also, it will become more difficult for them to find employment. A Ministry of Justice view these detriments as natural result because law revision is to regulate illegal stay.

It is surprising to see the difference about policy toward undocumented people between the United States and Japan. Even though America is nation of immigrant and Japan is not, Japanese policy seems to me too harsh for those people. Illegal residents in Japan are undeniably labors who prop up the Japanese economy. Therefore, Japanese government should offer minimum services (education to medical treatment and social insurance).


27 November, 2012. Education Week. “Undocumented Youths Will Not Be Deported”.

7 November, 2012. New York Times. “A Record Latino Turnout, Solidly Back Obama and Wield Influence”.

6 July, 2012. The Japan Times. “New Rules Put Scare Into Illegal Immigrants”.


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