restricted access Chapter 9: Other Countries
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n 107 CHAPTER 9 Other Countries “Lisa Martinez” is one of many illegal immigrants who “reap few bene- fits,” and who face “low wages, long hours, grueling conditions and paying kickbacks. . . . It’s not unusual, for instance, for factory workers to flip-flop weeks between night and day shifts, or for employers to require workers to put in unpaid overtime. . . . Martinez has held 13 jobs in 11 years here, but never with health insurance. She pays her own medical expenses—even after she scalded her hand in a vat of broth at a soup plant and after stomach and back pain immobilized her at a tile-painting factory where workers wore no masks.” She was also cheated of some $1,000 in withholding taxes.1 Sound familiar? Martinez, who comes from Peru, is not in the United States, however, but in Japan, which prides itself on its homogeneous character and doesn’t welcome strangers. “Wareware nihonjin . . .” “We Japanese people,” one hears often, as though they speak with one voice. It’s a country that practices citizenship by jus sanguinis, by descent, not birth, even excluding native-born Koreans whose grandparents arrived many years ago. Up until 1993, foreign residents were required to be fingerprinted, including Koreans, although “an estimated 90 percent of this population was born in Japan and the majority are not fluent in Korean.”2 108 n Chapter Nine Even homogeneous Japan, however, must face the realities of demographics. With a life expectancy of over eighty-one years and a birth rate of 1.4 children per woman, the Japanese face the same problems that confront many of the countries of the developed world. In 2003 the official estimate of the illegal population was 220,000 out of a population of almost 128,000,000, but there may be many more than that.3 Immigration is certainly not a new phenomenon. As long as there are haves and have-nots, some of the poor will seek a better life elsewhere. The projected increase in the population of Third World countries, added to the ease of transportation and a communication system that allows the poor to see how the richer half lives, will continue to push those with get-up-and-go, or those desperate enough, to get up and go. Egypt, with a population of some 72 million, hosts between two and five million refugees from Sudan, while in the state of São Paulo in Brazil, “it is estimated that forty percent of the alien population is illegal.” Immigrants to Brazil come especially from Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and Chile.4 Thousands fleeing African violence and poverty risk their lives in small boats to sail the five hundred miles from Mauritania, west of North Africa, to Spain’s Canary Islands, or attempt the shorter but closely watched route between Morocco and Spain. Many drown in the process. Or they struggle to reach Melilla or Ceuta, Spanish enclaves in Morocco. The law states that from there they are to be sent to Spain to be interviewed. Once in Europe, it’s an easy matter to slip away. When would-be immigrants from Africa learned that workers were doubling the height of the razor-wire fence around Melilla, hundreds rushed to scale the barrier before the work was completed, 400 in one night. Five died in the attempt, and many were injured.5 About 200 succeeded, as had 100 the night before.6 In 2005, some 11,000 migrants had attempted to get over the fence.7 Spain has added another 400 border guards to try to deter the flood of desperate Africans. Those who do make it to Spain have reached one of Europe’s more tolerant countries, where “a succession of amnesties has given hundreds of thousands of immigrants at least a theoretical path to legal status.”8 It has also initiated a guest worker program with Senegal that offers passage and renewable one-year visas and job opportunities.9 Morocco, in the meantime, has found itself “caught between weak sub-Saharan countries that do nothing to stop the flow of migrants north and European countries angry that the flow reaches their southern shores”—and accused of violating the human rights of the travelers, even abandoning them in the desert.10 Italy, too, “has been inundated with illegal immigrants setting sail from North Africa,” many of whom don’t survive the crossing.11 In 2004 a group of 100 left Libya for Sicily, but without enough food...


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