Fingerprinting Remains Hot Issue Among Int’l Residents of Japan

On Sept. 15 of this year [1989], Kanagawa resident Debionne Maxime, a French Catholic priest, chose a 12-day jail sentence over a ¥30,000 fine for refusing to be fingerprinted under Japan’s Alien Registration Law. In further protest, Maxime threatened to go on a hunger strike once inside the jail walls.

What is a French priest doing breaking Japan’s immigration laws? Why does he not just give in and pay the fine? And if he doesn’t like these laws, why doesn’t he simply return to his own country?

Actually, these and other questions have become international ones [centering around] the fingerprinting of foreign and native-born residents of Japan. In the case of Maxime and a few other foreign missionaries, people have decided to challenge in court the immigration laws and expose the “discrimination” against those who are most adversely affected by the current Alien Registration Law.

Fingerprint refusers maintain that last year’s amendments to the Alien Registration Law have, in fact, made it tougher for refusers — especially those native-born residents [of Japan, such as Koreans] — to protest the mandatory fingerprinting at age 16. Most of the 1,000 fingerprint refusers in Japan have had their court cases nulled and voided by the Imperial Household Agency’s amnesty after the death of the late Emperor Hirohito. But that hasn’t kept some concerned protesters from publicly challenging government officials who make the laws.

In the very near future, this issue may be a direct challenge to Japan’s widespread promotion of “internationalization”.

Brian Covert
Nichibei Correspondent