“The current system is cleverer than it seems. The thinking underlying the system is: “We don’t give a lot of work permits, so foreigners work illegally, and if they get in trouble we can send them home very easily.” So foreigners come over as students — fairly smart people come in — and they work illegally. They probably get lower pay because they are illegal; and if they do anything wrong, they get sent home. It’s unfair, and it’s illegal, but it’s a better system than people will acknowledge openly because they don’t like to admit that they are doing things illegally. Some say Japan must admit many more immigrants. I’m not persuaded that’s absolutely necessary.”
Ezra Vogel, “What happened to number one?” in Reimagining Japan
The problem of illegal immigrants is like prostitution — something that is outwardly deplorable, but something that law enforcement has to turn a blind eye to because they serve a need. Sometimes, the two overlap.