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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Girl forced to choose between parents and country

In a reflection of how law does not take into account human factors, or emotions, a teenage girl was placed in the horrendous position of having to choose between the country where she was born, and her parents (whom she may not be able to physically meet for 5 more years). In a case in Japan, a girl (Noriko Calderon), born to illegal immigrants, was given a choice of staying on in Japan, or returning on with her parents who were getting deported back to the Philippines. Her parents, Filipinos Arlan and Sarah Calderon, were illegal immigrants to Japan in the early 1990's, who then married in Japan and settled down there, and Noriko was born in Japan, and lived there for all of her young life. She is for all purposes a Japanese citizen (but not legally so, being granted a one year visa that will need to be extended annually), speaking only Japanese, and getting educated in Japan's schooling system.
However, her life (and that of her parents) was totally turned upside down one day in 2006 when Noriko's mother (Sarah Calderon) was arrested by authorities and accused of being an illegal immigrant. Her parents fought the legal battle till the end, but Japan is very strict about immigration controls and Noriko's parents lost in the end, finally being deported. And the decision for Noriko was hers to take (stay or go with her parents) (link to article):

Arlan found a stable job working for a construction company. Noriko grew up Japanese, attending school and never learning her parents' native language. Noriko, like many Tokyo girls her age, loves hip-hop and hopes to be a dancer or a teacher at a dance school someday. But her future in the only country she's ever known went into limbo when Japanese immigration authorities arrested her mother in 2006.
Japan's Immigration Bureau in a statement to CNN said the couple's illegal presence in the country as an "extremely malicious" violation that "shakes the foundation of Japan's immigration control." But when it came to 13 year old Noriko, the government gave the girl a choice: Her country or her parents. "Japan is my homeland," says Noriko, when asked why she is choosing to stay behind. She will move in with an aunt, allowed to stay in Japan under a visa that the government will reassess yearly. Her life, say her parents, will be better in Japan. She'll have schooling and the dreams a big city like Tokyo can offer her, versus the impoverished farm community her parents will move back to in the Philippines.

However heart-breaking the story, this is not a story that happens rarely. Such scenes are repeated in Japan and many other countries on a regular basis. Some countries are more liberal, allowing people to see a path for becoming citizens when they have been in the country for a long time; in other cases, it is equally traumatic when the child gets automatic citizenship due to having been born there, while the parents get no such benefit and are deported back to their original countries.
One slight twist happens in some such cases when the families do not retain any papers of their original country's citizenship, and their original country refuses to take them, asking for proof that these people were indeed their citizens in the first place.

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