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Noriko Calderon, Japanese Schoolgirl, Separated from Parents by Deportation: Could That Happen Here?

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on April 13, 2009 12:13 PM

CNN reported today on the story of Japanese-born Noriko Calderon, whose Filipino parents illegally immigrated to Japan, and who is now being left behind in Japan as her parents are deported. CNN gave the following background on the Calderon family's situation:

"Filipinos Arlan and Sarah Calderon illegally entered Japan in the early 1990s on fake passports. They married and had a daughter, Noriko...

But her future in the only country she's ever known went into limbo when Japanese immigration authorities arrested her mother in 2006.

Her parents decided to fight Japan's notoriously rigid immigration laws and for three years under a harsh media spotlight, they argued their case all the way to the country's High Court, saying Arlan is gainfully employed and their daughter only speaks Japanese.

The family lost their case in the High Court, and Japan ordered Arlan and Sarah Calderon be deported back to the Philippines."

Japan thereafter allowed Noriko to stay under visa, but she faces the difficiult prospect of being separated from her parents perhaps until she turns 18. Activists claim that Japan's "notoriously rigid immigration laws violate human rights", but people might wonder if the same thing could happen here in the States. Actually, Japan isn't alone, as the United States can (and does) sometimes similarly deport parents living in the country illegally. Some claim up to 5 million children could possibly face a situation similar to that of Noriko Calderon.

However, immigration laws in the United States do give some leeway for authorities to grant relief to parents in such situations. One form of relief is called cancellation of removal, where certain aliens facing removal (i.e. deportation) can have the proceedings terminated and become lawful permanent residents if they show that their removal would result in "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his or her immediate family members (limited to the alien's spouse, parent, or child) who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents."

However, this is a discretionary form of relief. In other words, it's up to an immigration judge whether or not an "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" rises to the requisite level (it's actually a very stringent standard). Also, not all aliens even qualify for this form of relief as there is a continuous presence requirement, as well as one of "good moral character".

As the topic of, and ongoing debate over, immigration reform makes headlines, advocates on all sides raise arguments illustrating the tough choices faced by legislators. On the one hand, some claim that it is unfair (not to mention unpopular) to allow or encourage individuals to immigrate illegally and take up jobs, particularly at a time when the economy is in a recession and jobs are already tough to come by. On the other hand, some argue it is unfair to essentially break up families who have lived and established extensive roots in the country for extended periods of time. Below are some links to more information and resources on the topics of immigration reform and removal proceedings.

Lastly, I should note that immigration laws are notoriously complex, and individuals may be eligible for more than one form or type of relief. As a result, anyone facing removal proceedings or concerned about their status is well-advised to consult a local immigration attorney to go through their particular circumstances in detail.

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