San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Assembly Approves Immigration Bill

LEGISLATORS passed a controversialnew law last week that updates CostaRica’s outdated immigration codes andattempts to address the country’s growingimmigrant population.The law allows police greater freedomin their attempts to discover andremove illegal immigrants, and punishesemployees who hire undocumentedworkers (TT, Aug. 26). It also givesundocumented immigrants eight monthsto become legal or face deportation, andgrants migratory police the power toenter any business at any time anddemand to see employees’ documentation.While supporters say the law willalleviate the strain the illegal immigrantpopulation puts on the country’s alreadyburdened health care and education systems,opponents decry the law’s severityand potential for abuse of authority. Anestimated 200,000 illegal immigrants livein Costa Rica; 150,000 are Nicaraguan.President Abel Pacheco said hewould not veto the law, in response to asuggestion he do so by presidential candidateand former President Oscar Arias.“This is a law that has been widelydiscussed… and was rejected by only fivelegislators,” Pacheco said.National Liberation Party (PLN) legislatorLuis Ramírez voted to pass the bill.“(Now), there are a lot of little gatesfor undocumented foreigners to enterthrough without control,” he told wire serviceACAN-EFE.But human rights, religious and academicgroups are alarmed at what they sayis a hard-line approach to immigrationthat fails to guarantee the right of dueprocess and protection for refugees.“You can’t make a law for immigrantsthat is repressive, because many ofthose who immigrated have, come to provideriches for this country,” Citizen ActionParty (PAC) legislator Gerardo Vargas, whovoted against the bill, said in a statement.The bill does not increase the $600monthly income requirement for retireesseeking residency here under the pensionadoscategory, as was originally proposed.Foreigners will also still be allowed toapply for residency as rentistas, proving amonthly income of $1,000.

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