Michael Q Todd caught with expired visa / Friends raising thousands of dollars online to “free” him

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    Update: Michael has been released! Check his version of the story here.

    It has come to my attention that “Twitter mentor” Michael Q Todd has been detained by immigration authorities in Japan after he was caught without a valid visa.
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    Jackie Bigford, who describes herself as a friend of Todd, has created a “Save Michael Q Todd” fundraiser on Indiegogo (cached), claiming that thousands of dollars must be raised so that Todd can hire a lawyer.

    According to the friend’s account, Todd was working as an interpreter for the animal rights activists:

    Michael was visiting Taiji Japan, on Sunday September 16th, where the infamous killing cove is located where thousands of dolphins and whales are brutally captured and slaughtered every year.
    Michael was in Taiji on a campaign . The campaign hired Michael as the core Japanese interpreter for a Canadian documentary. He was asked to produce his passport. He is in Japan on a Visa and it has run out. He was arrested and has been remanded to a Detention Centre until his case is heard.

    Michael is a causality in the hyper-police atmosphere making up Taiji, Wakayama for the dolphin hunt from Sept to March every year.

    Whether or not a “hyper-police atmosphere” exists in Taiji, it is illegal to live and work in Japan if your visa has expired.

    The page goes on to make the highly questionable claim that the Japanese government “misplaced” the paperwork for his visa renewal:

    Michael is in the process of trying to get his visa extended and because the paper work has been misplaced by the Japanese Government and he had no documents, the police arrested him on Sunday Morning.

    The fundraising page then describes how Todd needs money:

    He is currently being held in a Detention Centre and urgently needs financial assistance to hire a lawyer in Japan . Without a lawyer, no one can speak to him for the next 18 days.
    We believe that his case will be decided within the next 10 days.

    If Michael is deported then he will need finances to pay for where-ever country he heads to. If he is deported then he will not be able to apply to return to Japan for 7 years. Michael has met the love of his life in Japan, he has roots there as well, other family members.

    The estimate for costs is hard to really determine but we will aim for around $10,000. US

    Any money that is not spend on to “save” Todd will be donated to animal rights groups:

    The funds raised thru this campaign will go directly to assisting the legal fees the Michael will require, any overages will be donated to the campaign that we have been working on for almost 2 years ..saving the dolphins in Taiji, Japan

    The description on the Indiegogo page is clearly not accurate. Somebody has intentionally or unintentionally messed up some of the facts.

    In an Ecademy comment thread about Michael Q Todd’s fundraising page, a reader has posted some accurate information on how detention and deportation work in Japan. It has been re-posted here, with the author’s permission:


    • People initially enter Japan with a visa, then they receive a “Status of Residence” (SoR) if they live there (are not a tourist on a 90-day “temporary landing permit”). “Visa-exempt countries” like Australia and New Zealand are only applicable for short-term stays as a non-resident.
    • Some SoRs allow you to work (Instructor, Engineer, Journalist etc), some don’t (Student, Homemaker etc). Working for no-money pro-bono (like the Canadian documentary group) is still considered “work”.
    • All Status of Residences (SoRs), which the exception of Permanent Residency, have a expiration date. Usually 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, or (rarely) 5 years. If they are not renewed and you stay, you are called an “overstayer” (nice word for “illegal alien”).
    • If you overstay for one month or less and immediately report it, they will “slap your wrist” and rectify the situation usually. They will NOT do this if a) over one month, b) overstaying in combination with a crime, or c) prior record of immigration problems
    • When you apply for renewal of a SoR, a stamp is affixed in your passport saying that your renewal is in process. This allows you to stay in Japan even past the SoR expiration date until your application is approved. Contrary to what the indiegogo site says, there is no “paperwork” to misplace or “documents” to lose … if he had his passport (or ARC / Alien Registration Card or Residency Card).
    • All foreign residents, by law, are required to have either their ARC/Residency card OR their passport on them at all times. You are educated as to this law when you obtain a SoR. This doesn’t seem to apply to MQ, as the indiegogo site says he had his passport (which is unusual… most foreigners in Japan carry their credit card sized ARC which is more durable and compact day to day in their wallet rather than their passport which they could damage or lose)

      Unlike what the indiegogo page says, MQ will not really have a choice of country to go to. He will be deported to the country he’s a citizen of (New Zealand) on a one way straight flight as early as possible. Shopping for a discounted fare etc will not be possible. He will be required to pay for his own deportation (flight). A non-discounted, not-bought-in-advance one way ticket can be expensive.

      If he does not have cash they will make his use his credit cards.

    • There will be no legal lawyer representation or anything. Once you’re in Ibaraki immigration detention center, you will be deported. There is no habeas corpus for illegal immigration because being sent back to the country you’re a citizen of is technically not considered to be a “punishment”. Whether you agree with this or not isn’t the point; that’s how it is. There are exceptions for cases like refugees. New Zealanders, though, aren’t really eligible for refugee status.
    • He will be banned from reentering Japan for FIVE (5) years, not 7 like the indiegogo site says. If this is his second violation it will be 10 years. And even after 5 years, he will be scrutinized very carefully, and he may need a visa even though he’s from a visa-free country. His fingerprints will be recorded so he can’t enter under a different passport / name.

    What MQ will need is not money for a lawyer. He basically needs money to return home and restart his life in his native country.

    Most likely, he was caught “overstaying” when police checked IDs at Taiji, which they have the legal right to do without needing cause. Being in Taiji with groups that have a history or trespassing, MQ should’ve known that police would be checking IDs. The group, as well as MQ, should have been aware of the dangers of being in Japan doing controversial work without proper residency status. Foreign residents in Japan are well educated towards the risk of residing with expired/improper status in Japan. It’s a popular topic.

    MQ is a nice guy. I know him and have met him on numerous occasions. I feel for him. He messed up, though, and there’s basically not any amount of money (or lawyering) that will fix this. I’m sorry he messed up his life in Japan.

    Whether you want to give money to him is your choice. But I thought you should know the facts re Japanese deportation before you commit money to his organization.

    Further comment from a reader who is familiar with how things happen at the detention center: Detainees do have access to lawyers, but only at predetermined times, and the gap in between is very long (first a briefing, then two weeks or no contact before the hearing). But in practise, everything is already decided once they decide whether to let you go home or they send you to detention.

    A Facebook page for Michael Q Todd was set up on September 18. So he should be processed in 10 days, so four days to go at most. Still, it will be a rough ride.

    Update: More information from a friend.

    You can always get an attorney/lawyer for anything, and they may be able to help with respect to talking to immigration, but you do not get the right to challenge it in a traditional court of law with all the legal processes available to you in the traditional form of justice.

    The flow chart for deportation in Japan is here: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/tetuduki/taikyo/taikyo_flow.html

    As you mentioned, there are places in the process (“hearing” as you call it) for the person to be deported to object/protest the deportation. And a lawyer may help at these points in the process. But pragmatically, the odds are not good. And ultimately speaking, it’s the MoJ’s and or immigration’s call, not traditional legal judges. There are no avenues for appeal or be judged by lay judges.

    There is a spot in the flow chart for the Ministry to grant exceptions to “special cases”. These special cases almost always involve somebody who has a spouse or child in Japan (but not always, and having a spouse/child doesn’t mean you’ll get special cased).

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