Gov't beefs up tough immigration talk

Gov't beefs up tough immigration talk

Officials vow to institute stricter criminal record checks and faster deportations

The national government is seeking to change current legislation, institute tougher border controls for immigrants with criminal records and speed the process of deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes in the country, officials announced this week.

During his first press conference of 2017, President Mauricio Macri said that the government "will not allow criminals to keep choosing Argentina as a country to come and commit crimes." "We need to get in contact with other countries to know who is who. We have to act preventively," Macri stressed. The head of state also said that "if any immigrant who was condemned in Argentina wants to be sent to his country, it may take u p to eight years" adding that "it's necesary to have tools which allow expelling then before." As the Herald reported in November, on the verge of a key electoral year for the country, the antiimmigrant rethoric appears to have become a campaign issue, at least according to recent comments expressed by political leaders. As such, it's not clear yet if the new measures will be part of a bill to be discussed in Congress or if they will be implemented after a decree.

For her part, Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra asserted that "Argentina has one of the world's most open migration laws," but that they must "make decisions" because "some people, with criminal records, with ties with drugtrafficking, take advantage of our openness." "We must review the laws to see what the problem is," Malcorra answered when asked by Radio Mitre on eventual changes in migration regulations.
In that sense, Malcorra, who is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, remarked that "the President has formed a work team because they are not things that can be done from one minute to the next; we have to think them and work them out responsibly." "When we talk about a Latin America that accepts the free transit of its citizens, then we must do it with responsibility and we must have the technological elements, the data bases and the tools, it is essential. The crosschecking of the region's information has to be mandatory. If we have all the tools, we must set them into motion," the official pointed out.

Malcorra added that "Argentina has one of the world's most open migration laws. Our country is what it is because of immigration. We all have a grandparent or great grandparent who escaped from a war or from hunger, thus, it has marked us as a society." Meanwhile, Deputy Director of Migration Julián Curi told the Télam state-run news agency that between 2005 and 2015 two and a half million foreigners entered the country, whereas in 10 years only 30 people were expelled.

"We don't want to change the profile of a country completely open to immigration, but if in one decade two and a half million people settled in Argentina, it is impossible that only 30 have been expelled. That means no one was deported," analyzed Curi and added that in 2016,35 people were expelled, a figure that for him "is still low" in relation with what the law establishes.

The official explained that according to the current legislation, the Immigration Office has the obligation to remove residency and expel the foreigners sentenced with more than Five years of imprisonment, but in practice it is impossible. "They spend many years without a sentence because the process to discuss the expulsion is extremely long," held Curi. Rights groups and opposition leaders expressed their concern.
"We have to be very careful with this issue. If restrictions are for people with criminal records the project might be reasonable. But take care with putting discriminatory barriers in the borders of a country that declares itself open to immigration in its Constitution," pointed out Progressives lawmaker and GEN leader Margarita Stolbizer.

For her part, Renewal Front lawmaker Graciela Camaño said that with this bill the government "tries to produce headlines for the newspapers instead of working" while Victory Front lawmaker Juan Cabandid stressed that Argentina "is a country of immigrants by its definition" adding that "in times when xenophobia is growing in the world, we have to appreciate our country as a very successful model of integration."

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For her part, Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra asserted that "Argentina has one of the world's most open migration laws," but that they must "make decisions" because "some people, with criminal records, with ties with drugtrafficking, take advantage of our openness." "We must review the laws to see what the problem is," Malcorra answered when asked by Radio Mitre on eventual changes in migration regulations.

 

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