San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Court to study legality of immigrant detentions

Immigrant’s rights groups are challenging the constitutionality of parts of Costa Rica’s immigration law.

While the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) is reviewing the case, it has ordered immigration officials to stop detaining foreigners suspected of being in the country illegally. The Sala IV also ordered a moratorium on immigration agents confiscating passports or travel documents of immigrants here, the daily La Nación reported.

As it stands, the current law allows immigration officials to detain individuals suspected of being in the country illegally for up to 24 hours. That 24-hour period, according to the law, “can be extended in certain situations.” It also allows for officials to retain foreigners’ passports and travel documents “with the goals of verifying their immigration status.”

Immigration Director Kathya Rodríguez told La Nación the moratorium on those two actions leaves officials with their “hands tied,” adding that detentions and the retention of travel documents are the “basic tools” the organization uses to handle cases of individuals suspected of being in the country illegally.

 Carlos Sandoval, who filed the legal challenge, told La Nación the Costa Rican Constitution allows an administrative body to detain individuals for up to 24 hours only if legal proceedings are started against the person.

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