San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Shackin’ Up May Not Be The Shelter You Need

Married to a Tico or Tica and think you’re immune from deportation or extradition? Think again.

Ruling that marriage to a Costa Rican does not automatically confer citizenship, a recent Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) ruling threw out one man’s habeas corpus appeal.

“People allege that being married takes away the government’s power to deport them,” court spokeswoman Andrea Marín said. “But … you still have to go through the process, and authorities can deny you.”

Under the Constitution, citizens cannot be deported or extradited, which makes the immigration bureaucracy’s decisions on citizenship extremely important. Absent a legal or constitutional change, judicial and executive branch bureaucrats appear to be exploiting their discretionary powers not to grant citizenship to people they believe are involved in criminal activity.

Recent court decisions by the Sala IV and the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) have begun erasing a long-standing tradition in the country in which foreigners married to Ticos were not extradited or deported.

In May, judicial authorities announced they would extradite Severin Marcel Stone, a U.S. citizen arrested in Escazú in January on warrants for fraud, even though he is married to a Tica.

In March, the TSE announced it was invalidating the previously approved citizen-ship of Franklin Viveros, a Colombian who has since been deported and was allegedly involved in an assassination plot against former Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal (TT, March 14).

German García, who filed the habeas corpus appeal that Sala IV recently rejected, has been in Immigration Police custody. His lawyer argued his arrest and processing for deportation are illegal because of his marriage to a Tica.

Immigration Director Mario Zamora and Immigration Police Chief Francisco Castaing could not be reached for comment on García’s case.

Immigration Police Deputy Chief José Bravo declined to comment on García’s case specifically, but he said marriage by proxy (matrimonio por poder) should not be a protection for alleged criminals.

“This is a very controversial topic,” he said. “But there are many who get married this way (to stay in the country). We have one case where one (homeless person) is married to four different people.”


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