On June 8th at just past 10 am, a contentious and regressive immigration bill was passed when the Japanese House of Councillors Committee on Judicial Affairs suspended deliberations and forced a vote. Protesters voicing their opposition to the bill gathered from early in the morning at the National Diet Library, where their calls could be heard by those in the committee room.
The immigration bill is an assault on the rights of asylum seekers, immigrants, and even those born in Japan. It allows for those with a pending asylum application to be deported and makes it a crime to have irregular residence status. Japan’s rates of asylum application acceptance are abysmally low by world standards at less than 1 percent. And the criminalization of those with irregular statuses would put thousands at risk of arrest and deportation, including children born and raised in Japan.
Ippei Torii from the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan led the protest calls, singling out Diet members by name and calling “No vote!” and “No murderous immigration bill!”. Before long, the protestors’ rage reached a boiling point, the news had come that the bill had passed.
Torii called out “Although we were overcome by the raw numbers in the Diet, those of us on the ground will continue to put human rights at the center of our struggle, and fight for a multi-ethnic, multicultural society! We will not be defeated by this unjust bill.”
Author Ichie Watanabe, who participated in the protest, when asked for a statement said “There’s too many things I want to say. They fed the public a pack of lies and forced the bill through. It’s unforgivable. Is this really a government for the people? This country is broken, shame on the government!”
Shouichi Ibusuki, a labor and immigration lawyer, posted the following on facebook in response to the passage of the bill:
The unjust immigration bill was forced through by the government. It’s the beginning of the end of the immigration system! The source of the Immigration Bureau's’ authority is that its inner-workings are a complete black-box, hidden from the public. During the deliberations some of these secrets were dragged out. The Bureau is on its last legs. When the government forced a vote on the bill, it became clear that the immigration system cannot survive for long as it currently exists.