Japanese Small Business Owners told to Deport 20 Years After Doing Taxes Wrong

After living in the United States for the past 28 years, Akio and Fukado Kawashima now face deportation. The small business owners, who own a series of popular sushi restaurants in Southern California, are being deported over an underreported tax return in 1991.

The couple caught for this “false” tax return already paid a large price for their error, paying the full $245,000 charged to them by the Internal Revenue Service in 1997. The couple also pleaded guilty to the charges, and Akio was given a four-month jail sentence. However, despite already paying for their error, immigration and naturalization officials of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement want to deport the couple.

Although neither of the Kawashimas has ever been granted U.S. citizenship, both have kept up their immigration papers and are both currently permanent residents.

ICE deemed the Kawashimas’ tax-related crime an aggravated felony, providing many immigration advocates with a clear sign of what the federal government determines a “criminal” background, on par with the Obama administration’s August 2011 announcement that it would focus on deporting serious criminals only. With more than 300,000 deportation cases currently pending in the United States, however, the Kawashima’s crime hardly seems severe.

In the wake of the decision, the Kawashima family is trying to absorb the shock of the decision, and is working to prepare their restaurants for their detentions. The couple’s son and daughter-in-law are trying to figure out how they will run the restaurants in their parents’ absence.

“It’s really sad – and really unfair,” Wakako Kawashima, the couple’s daughter-in-law, told the Los Angeles Times. “They know the decision, but they’re trying to figure out what to do.”