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Viewing cable 06SANJOSE1529, DELAY LIKELY FOR NEW IMMIGRATION LAW

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06SANJOSE1529 2006-07-11 15:03 2011-03-08 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2702320.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2702324.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702325.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702326.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702327.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #1529/01 1921512
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 111512Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5550
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 001529 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN JASON MACK 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2016 
TAGS: KCRM PGOV PREF SMIG CS
SUBJECT: DELAY LIKELY FOR NEW IMMIGRATION LAW 
 
REF: SAN JOSE 00280 
 
Classified By: CDA Russell Frisbie for reasons 1.4 (B&D) 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (C)  President Oscar Arias has requested legislation that 
would delay the implementation of a law passed in October, 
2005 designed to strengthen the immigration enforcement 
authority of Costa Rican Immigration (CRI) officials.  The 
law is scheduled to take effect in August 2006.  In all 
likelihood, implementation of the law will be delayed until 
December, 2007.  Some of the law's controversial provisions 
likely will be weakened.  While public statements by the 
government blame the excessive cost of the law's 
implementation for the delay, poloff's discussion with the 
Director of Immigration indicates that concern over 
corruption within CRI is a more urgent reason the GOCR will 
seek to delay implementation of the law. Additionally, the 
Arias administration implementation of the new law would 
provoke additional opposition at the same time the GOCR will 
be attempting to push fiscal reform and CAFTA through the 
Legislative Assembly.  END SUMMARY 
 
--------------------------- 
NEW IMMIGRATION LAW DELAYED 
--------------------------- 
 
2. (U)  In October 2005, the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly 
passed a draft law intended to strengthen the immigration 
enforcement powers of CRI authorities.  The law, which would 
criminalize alien smuggling and fine anyone who helps or 
employs illegal aliens, is scheduled to take effect in August 
2006 (reftel).  However, Arias's recently asked for a delay 
in the implementation of the law until December 2007.  Arias, 
as a presidential candidate when the law was passed, 
unsuccessfully urged then-President Abel Pacheco to veto the 
bill, citing fears that the bill would result in increased 
human rights abuses of illegal immigrants.  Arias's Minister 
of Security, Fernando Berrocal, has declared the bill 
impossible to enforce, due to cost.  Berrocal calculates that 
600 new immigration police would have to be hired, new 
detention centers constructed, and large investments in 
technology and equipment would be needed to comply with the 
mandates of the new law.  The estimated cost would be nearly 
14 million dollars. 
 
3. (U)  Arias's call to delay the implementation appears 
headed for approval.  The 17 members of the Citizen's Action 
Party (PAC) legislative deputies, complaining that the 
immigration law creates a "type of Gestapo," have committed 
to join the 25 deputies of Arias's National Liberation Party 
(PLN) to pass legislation that would delay the law.  The six 
Libertarian Movement (ML) party members have no defined 
position.  Only the Social Christian Unity party (PUSC) 
deputies have expressed disapproval of the law's delay. 
Passage of the law was one of the major legislative 
accomplishments of former President Abel Pacheco of PUSC. 
 
---------------------------- 
MORE THAN JUST LACK OF MONEY 
---------------------------- 
 
4. (C)  On June 30, poloff met with the new director of CRI, 
Mario Zamora.  Zamora supported the law's delayed 
implementation, stating privately that corruption concerns 
were more compelling reasons than lack of resources for 
delaying the new law's implementation.  He told poloff that 
his first priority as Director of Immigration will be to 
eliminate the corruption in his department, and that 
implementing the new program next month would be impossible 
given the current level of corruption.  Zamora fears that the 
sweeping new powers the law gives CRI officials to impose 
large fines would be abused by corrupt officials who accept 
bribes to look the other way.  The law would make 
opportunities for this kind of corruption a nation-wide 
phenomenon instead of the current situation where such 
opportunities are restricted to points of entry.  He also 
added that enforcing this law in August, in the midst of the 
crucial legislative battles over fiscal reform and CAFTA 
ratification, would be very difficult politically for the 
Arias administration.  According to Zamora, all sections of 
the law, including the new and relatively non-controversial 
penalties for human trafficking, would be delayed.  Zamora 
does not expect the law to survive in its current form, 
especially the sections mandating heavy fines for those who 
hire or assist illegal immigrants in Costa Rica. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
5. (C)  Director Zamora appears enthusiastic about fighting 
corruption within his department, and is optimistic that he 
can work with Second Vice-President Kevin Casas to reorganize 
CRI and terminate corrupt employees.  He is young (36) and 
new to Costa Rican government, which may contribute to his 
idealism.  During the meeting with poloff, he requested any 
assistance the USG could give him, especially technological 
resources.  He indicated that he would be willing to offer 
Embassy officials greater access to CRI information. 
 
6. (C)  The law does appear to be unenforceable given the 
current levels of corruption within CRI and the distaste the 
Arias administration has for it.  Unfortunately, a delay 
would affect those portions of the law which could have been 
useful in the fight against trafficking of persons through 
Costa Rica.  END COMMENT. 
FRISBIE