Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal and Immigration Director Mario Zamora Wednesday presented the Legislative Assembly’s Governance Commission with 60 reforms to the Immigration Law that aim to guarantee the respect of human rights and allow immigrants greater participation in Costa Rican society.
Zamora said the reforms to the Immigration Law would make it the “most modern law in the American continent in terms of immigration,” since it would take into account the opinions of immigrants, the Catholic Church, the government and other social players.
A technical team within the Public Security Ministry, which oversees the Immigration Administration, consulted these groups to draft reforms to the Immigration Law, which was approved in 2005 during the administration of President Abel Pacheco, with a clause stating the government had eight months to prepare before it took effect (TT, Sept, 8, 2006).
Upon taking office in May of last year, President Oscar Arias and his officials attempted to postpone the law, criticized for its harsh penalties for illegal immigrants, among other things, but the Legislative Assembly did not approve the delay bill in time (TT, Aug. 11, 2006).
Once the new law took effect, the postponement could no longer occur since it would have created a legal void – with the old law now off the books, postponing the new law would have left the country with no immigration policy. Instead, Arias created the technical team to study and propose reforms, a process that culminated this week.
Among other changes, the bill would allow foreigners to process paperwork for residency in Costa Rica rather than having to return to the consulates in their respective countries.
Other reforms seek more respect of immigrants’ human rights and better training of police officers, especially Border Police.
These reforms will be studied by the commission and, if approved, would then move to the assembly’s main floor.