Fighting for Foreigners

Fighting for Foreigners: Immigration and Its Impact on Japanese Democracy

Apichai W. Shipper
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Fighting for Foreigners
    Book Description:

    Although stereotypically homogenized and hostile to immigrants, Japan has experienced an influx of foreigners from Asia and Latin America in recent decades. In Fighting for Foreigners, Apichai W. Shipper details how, in response, Japanese citizens have established a variety of local advocacy groups-some faith based, some secular-to help immigrants secure access to social services, economic equity, and political rights.

    Drawing on his years of ethnographic fieldwork and a pragmatic account of political motivation he calls associative activism, Shipper asserts that institutions that support illegal foreigners make the most dramatic contributions to democratic multiculturalism. The changing demographics of Japan have been stimulating public discussions, the political participation of marginalized groups, and calls for fair treatment of immigrants. Nongovernmental organizations established by the Japanese have been more effective than the ethnically particular associations formed by migrants themselves, Shipper finds. Activists who initially work in concert to solve specific and local problems eventually become more ambitious in terms of political representation and opinion formation.

    As debates about the costs and benefits of immigration rage across the developed world, Shipper's research offers a refreshing new perspective: rather than undermining democracy in industrialized society, immigrants can make a positive institutional contribution to vibrant forms of democratic multiculturalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6182-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Apichai W. Shipper
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Note on Conventions
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. 1 Introduction: Associative Activism
    (pp. 1-24)

    The following description by a Filipina missionary of a weekly church gathering of Filipinos in Japan illustrates the undemocratic relationship among foreigners based on their legal and occupational categorization:

    At the front pews you will see the “legitimate” Filipino community—the embassy people, the students on Monbusho scholarships, the spouses of Japanese nationals, then the male migrant workers, who are engaged in “decent back-breaking labor.” Crowded by the door are the women who work in the sex industry, the last to arrive and the first to leave. Readers and leaders are almost always the students. Although coffee or tea and...

  7. 2 Controlling Foreigners: Japan’s Foreign Worker Policy
    (pp. 25-58)

    Japan’s immigration policy focuses on controlling foreigners and lacks an active policy to incorporate them into society or to participate in Japan’s political life. Recognizing the demand for foreign workers in certain industries, the national government allows selected foreigners to enter and work in Japan without satisfactorily providing for their needs. It treats foreigners unpaternalistically and categorizes them hierarchically by race (or nationality), their function in Japanese society, and, sometimes, gender. This racialized hierarchy—which produces differentiated jobs, wages, rights, and privileges for different groups of foreigners—is a political construction of the Japanese government, rooted in a cultural view...

  8. 3 Long-Distance Nationalism: Political Activities of Immigrant Ethnic Associations
    (pp. 59-87)

    There are limited opportunities for immigrant ethnic associations to form in Japan because immigration control policies restrict the institutional development of temporary foreigner groups. The groups that do develop tend to consist of foreigners with more permanent status (especially zainichi and Asian wives). Living in a country with no active policies to fully incorporate foreigners into its society, such foreigners in Japan with no political rights inevitably feel vulnerable as outsiders and turn to building closer ties with their co-ethnics and their home countries. As a result, they have created numerous immigrant ethnic associations, groups that provide ethnic identification and...

  9. 4 Democracy of Illegals: Organizing Support for Illegal Foreigners
    (pp. 88-127)

    For illegal foreigners in Japan, who are unable to form their own support groups for fear of arrest and deportation and who lack significant support from their legal counterparts, assistance and advocacy have come largely from Japanese activists. Since 1983, immigrant rights activists have established approximately two hundred immigrant rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to assist illegal foreigners, fighting for protection of their basic rights and provision of welfare services. Foreigner support groups formed by Japanese citizens provide a range of medical and legal services and work to increase public awareness of the conditions faced by overstayed foreigners. In some cases...

  10. 5 Local Partners: Local Governments and Immigrant Rights NGOs
    (pp. 128-155)

    In recent years, a growing partnership has developed between Japanese immigrant rights NGOs and local governments. As increasing numbers of foreigners come into their areas, local governments have felt compelled by their own sense of responsibility to offer emergency public relief to those in immediate need. In the process of delivering social welfare services to foreign residents, these local authorities, particularly in progressive areas, have come to recognize and appreciate the work and expertise of the NGOs. They have established a dialogue with associative activists by inviting activists to give talks, arranging discussion meetings and citizens’ assemblies, volunteering at their...

  11. 6 Foreigners in the Public Sphere: Contesting Prevalent Social Meanings
    (pp. 156-187)

    Of particular interest to students of communicative democracy are the ways in which immigrant rights activists are gaining the attention of the Japanese media. The struggle of NGOs to improve conditions for illegal foreigners has been the subject of much media attention in Japan; indeed, the media increasingly turns to these NGOs for expert information and opinions on overstayed foreign workers. In addition, immigrant rights NGOs play an important role in the political struggle with state actors over the construction of foreigners’ images. One major source of information on illegal foreigners for the mass media is the National Police Agency...

  12. 7 Conclusion: Foreigners and Democracy
    (pp. 188-202)

    The presence of foreigners challenges democratic ideals. On the one hand, democracies set clear criteria for membership and presuppose a minimum of shared values among members of the political community. On the other hand, they require a respect for individual political rights and for differences in culture (beliefs and identities) between individuals and groups. The question, then, is how do different advanced industrialized countries deal with foreign migrants, and where does Japan fit in this comparative matrix? This book offers a theoretical contribution to comparative immigration politics by examining Japan’s policy response to the challenges of rising numbers of foreigners...

  13. Appendix Foreigners’ Support Groups in Tokyo and Kanagawa
    (pp. 203-206)
  14. Index
    (pp. 207-216)