Will open-door immigration plan die after Fukuda?

The hope was provided by a group of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who drafted a bold proposal to create a new immigration policy that would raise the population of foreigners in Japan to 10 percent of the overall population in the next 50 years.

The proposal was handed to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, but his sudden resignation announcement Sept. 1 is raising concerns the proposal will be buried by the next prime minister.

“I am disappointed,” said lawmaker Hirohiko Nakamura, who helped draft the proposal. In a recent interview with The Japan Times, Nakamura said Fukuda was instrumental in getting the proposal off the ground.

“We got this far because it was Fukuda. . . . Fukuda was willing to listen to the proposal and it was about to move forward.”

Japan’s immigration policy largely depends on its leader, but when the prime minister keeps changing, consistency goes out the window.

The group’s report is titled “Proposal For a Japanese-style Immigration Policy.” It aims to address the problem of Japan’s shrinking population by raising the number of foreign residents. Nakamura was secretary general of team, which was was chaired by former LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa.

“The only effective treatment to save Japan from a population crisis is to accept people from abroad,” the proposal says. “For Japan to survive, it needs to open its doors as an international state passable to the world and shift toward establishing an ‘immigrant nation’ by accepting immigrants and revitalizing Japan.”

The group’s definition of “immigrant” is consistent with that of the United Nations: individuals who have lived outside their home countries for more than 12 months. This includes people on state or corporate training programs, exchange students and asylum seekers.

One major aspect of the proposal, Nakamura explained, is protecting the rights of foreigners in Japan so they can work safely and securely.

“Japanese people are pretending not to see the human rights situation of foreign laborers,” Nakamura said. “In a world where even animal rights are protected, how can we ignore the human rights of foreign workers?”

“What are politicians doing to solve this problem?” Nakamura asked. “They are at the beck and call of the bureaucrats who are just trying to protect their vested interests.”

Nakamura faulted the bureaucrats for not creating a warmer society for foreigners. For example, they don’t bring up the poor labor conditions for foreign workers, but when a foreigner is suspected of a crime, the information is spread immediately, Nakamura said.

“Bureaucrats don’t want (many foreigners in Japan),” Nakamura said. “Otherwise, it would be so easy (for bureaucrats) to start an educational campaign on living symbiotically with foreigners.”

Admitting that lawmakers have also dragged their feet, Nakamura said the key to breaking the vertically structured bureaucrat-led administration is to establish an official “immigration agency” to unify the handling of foreigner-related affairs, including legal issues related to nationality and immigration control.