Tica Jailed for 27 Hours In Passport Mix-up

September 1, 2006

Mauren Lucrecia Obregón, a Costa Rican woman who lives in the United States, endured not only deportation from Portugal earlier this month, but also 27 hours in an immigrant detention center and a  forced performance of Costa Rica’s National Anthem to prove her national identity.

Why? Portuguese authorities at the airport who reviewed Obregón’s passport, a legitimate document issued by the Costa Rican Consulate in New York, believed it was false, according to the daily La Nación. Officials eventually confiscated the passport and Obregón’s identity card, or cédula, and put her on a plane back to the United States.

Like the rest of the 350-500 passports the consulate issues each month, Obregón’s passport was filled out by hand by a consular official. Obregón told La Nación that although she explained the consulate had issued the passport May 22, Portuguese officials did not believe her, and several calls to the consulate in an attempt to confirm the passport’s validity went unanswered.

Obregón, 39, has lived in the United States for seven years and traveled to Portugal with her boyfriend, a citizen of that country. She is asking the consulate to pay her $10,000 for the costs she incurred during the journey and is preparing a complaint against the Portuguese officials.

Her lawyer, John Brenes, said that in addition to holding Obregón without a charge, the officials “humiliated her by asking her to sing the National Anthem.” Obregón said she missed a few lines because she was nervous.

New York consul Alejandra Solano told the daily she is worried other Costa Ricans might have the same experience, and that she “asked the lady for forgiveness in the name of the Costa Rican government.”

Immigration official Xinia Sossa said a plan is being implemented to have all passports prepared at the central offices in San José, then distributed to consulates, to prevent this problem from recurring.

 

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