San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Immigration Director Resigns Amid Controversy

IMMIGRATION director MarcoBadilla said in late June he needed four tosix months to get everything runningsmoothly in the General ImmigrationAdministration, where chaos currentlyreigns – but last week, he said his job wasdone and stepped down from his post.While Badilla may be leaving Immigrationbehind, however, rulings by the justices ofthe Constitutional Chamber of theSupreme Court (Sala IV) suggest that legaltroubles will continue to follow him.Badilla denied to the press that his resignationhas anything to do with the criticismthat has surrounded Immigration inrecent months – namely that the departmenthas reached “monumental inefficiency”and may be illegally granting visas toChinese immigrants.The day after he announced his resignation,the Sala IV found Badilla personallyresponsible for delays in processingpassports. Badilla could be forced to payfinancial damages.Despite these problems, Badilla said heis resigning because the projects he startedduring his three years as director arealmost complete, particularly a new immigrationbill that would overhaul the country’simmigration policies and a restructuringof the immigration system.LEGISLATORS passed the immigrationbill in first debate in June (TT, June10). However, the Sala IV declared variousarticles of the bill unconstitutional on July21. The bill must now go back to legislatorsfor discussion and at least one morevote.Immigration’s computer system wasrecently updated and will receive another$1.7 million boost at the end of the year inthe form of a new system for electronicallyreadable passports. In May, the GeneralImmigration Administration was restructuredto create more efficiency, but userscomplain that the restructuring has madethe system even slower – requiring morethan two months and countless hours inmultiple lines to process a passport (TT,June 24).According to Sala IV justices, Badillahas not done enough to deal with theseproblems.The chamber ruled in favor of variouscomplaints filed in recent months by CostaRicans against Immigration because ofdelays in processing passports. Accordingto the ruling, delays at Immigration haveviolated Costa Ricans’ right to free transit,and the department must make the processfaster.THE latest ruling goes still further byholding Badilla personally responsible forthe delay that six Costa Ricans had inreceiving their passports, and finding thatBadilla disobeyed the previous Sala IVorders, the daily La Nación reported. BothBadilla and the state could be forced to paydamages if those who won the case file aclaim in administrative court.The six Costa Ricans who filed theSala IV lawsuit arrived at Immigration inApril and were not given passport appointmentsuntil July. They were initially toldtheir documents would be ready by July16, but their plane tickets are for July 13.ADDING to the immigration department’sheadaches is an investigationopened in April by the Prosecutor’s Officeto see if Chinese citizens are being authorizedto enter the country despite not fulfillingthe requirements to receive visas.Searches were made and documentswere removed from the GeneralImmigration Administration in northwesternSan José, immigration offices in JuanSantamaría International Airport, a travelagency and a Chinese-Costa Rican businessman’shome.The documents form part of an investigationto determine if authorities are facinga criminal organization dedicated to humantrafficking, according to La Nación.Preliminary results of the investigationfound that immigration agents might beinvolved, the daily reported.BADILLA was never implicated in theaffair. He said he would be at the dispositionof judicial agents investigating theissue if needed.Meanwhile, Public Security MinisterRogelio Ramos told the daily Al Día that apolitical setup may have prompted theinvestigation. He said the JudicialInvestigation Police (OIJ) agents who areinvestigating the allegations may haveulterior motives.For his part, Badilla said he couldn’tdiscard the idea of a “political setup.”

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