The distributor of this film, together with Amnesty International, organized an event which I attended several days ago. The film deals with "illegal aliens" in the USA. Nevertheless, nowadays United Nations' agencies as well as citizens' groups prefer to use the expression "irregular" residents to avoid the image of criminal involved in the expression "illegal."
The Japanese title of the film is "The Whereabouts of Justice? ICE Special Investigator" (ICE stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement) As a result of the 9/11 terror attack in 2001 the US government reorganized the Immigration Department into this new ICE organization. Thus, controls on irregular residents have been made stricter in order to avert the dangers of terrorism. ICE investigators have increased in number up to 20,000, which is about double the number of FBI personnel. The hero in the film is Max (Harrison Ford), an ICE investigator. The film portrays immigrants and the immigration officers who decide their fate, lawyers as well as FBI investigators.
Max is a veteran humanistic investigator. He brings home to Mexico the child of a Mexican lady that had been deported. His companion Hamid is the son of an Iranian immigrant who escaped from his country during the Iranian revolution. Hamid's younger sister fell in love with the owner of a copy machine shop, who has produced fake green cards for resident immigrants.
Clair, an Australian girl dreaming of becoming an actress, has asked Hamid for a fake green card. Cole, an ICE immigration officer, demands sexual relationship with Clair in exchange for the green card. Clair's boyfriend, Gavin, is a Jew aspiring to be a musician, who in order to be accepted as an American citizen becomes a Jewish rabbi.
On the other hand, Cole's wife Denise works as a lawyer for refugees and immigrants and, since they do not have children, tries to adopt as a daughter a Nigerian girl who is all alone in an immigration jail. Denise has accepted the case of Taslima, a girl from Bangladesh under investigation by the FBI and in danger of been deported away from her family because she wrote a report as a high school assignment that was sympathetic toward the perpetrators of the 9.11 terror acts.
Additionally, Max usually makes use of the cleaning shop of a Korean immigrant whose son, seduced by a group of bad friends, has been caught in a robbery just a few days before he was to be given his green card. On the scene was Hamid, whose younger sister Zahra had just been murdered.
Following the details of the story, one experiences the thrill of a mystery drama. But, in fact, what is represented in the film is the drama of the successes and frustrations of immigrants who risk their future in being attracted to America as the country of their dreams. Some of them, helped by the good will of others, are lucky enough to get the green card. Others are violently separated from their relatives and deported, while others lose their lives in the process. Borders between countries can in this way change the fate of people. Although the film deals with serious facts, it nevertheless it has an enjoyable touch.
Amnesty International, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and a group of lawyers working for refugees and migrants in Japan published a report on the situation of migrants in Japan at a symposium organized after the film. About 2% of the world's population moves from country to country for various reasons. There are about 11 million irregular residents in the USA. Over 2,210,000 foreign residents live in Japan, and although about 250,000 were overstayers in 2003, their numbers have been greatly reduced in the last 5 years, as a result of stricter immigration and police measures.
Japan has a high average age, and because of the increasing population decline cannot avoid an increased number of foreign residents. Random regulations without planning will only invite useless disarray. This film sends an important message to Japan also. This is an appropriate time to search for integrated policies for accepting migrant workers and refugees.
[Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo]