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Immigration Bill Is Signed into Law, but Amendments Are Subject to Criticism

11/21/2017 - 10h35

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PATRÍCIA CAMPOS MELLO
FROM SÃO PAULO

Brazil's Immigration bill will be signed into law on Tuesday (the 21st), replacing the Foreigner's Statute, which was devised during the military dictatorship, having addressed the issue of immigration from the standpoint of national security.

Despite having been considered progressive, human rights entities are criticizing the 'regulatory decree', which they claim undermines the bill. Several of the articles in the decree are being questioned by the Public Defender's Office of the Union (DPU) and several immigrant rights organizations.

"The decree has several aspects that are clearly in violation of the immigration bill itself, such as the incarceration of immigrants who will be departed, given that article 123 of the law expressly prohibits the destitution of freedom in matters related to immigration", said Camila Asano, a coordinator at the Human Rights Conectas Program.

The DPU filed a document containing 47 modification requests. One of them refers to the regulation of family reunion requests made by those who are under political asylum - the decree stipulates that all family members must be on Brazilian soil. However, in a majority of cases, such requests are put in by refugees who are in flight and enter the country by themselves.

The decree will also impose delays to visa and residency card issuance in humanitarian cases, reversing an important modification in the Immigration bill. Article 36 stipulates that the "joint action of the Foreign Affairs, Justice and Public Security and Labor ministries will define the conditions, deadlines and requirements for visa issuance."

"When a decree calls for complementary interministerial action, that can thwart the bill. Bringing ministers together to come to a consensus is no easy task - and these are urgent matters: take a look at the situation the Venezuelans are in", said Gustavo Zortea da Silva, a public defender at the DPU.

Currently, only Haitians and civilians affected by the war in Syria have been contemplated by humanitarian visas. The new bill would pave the way to making the issuance of such visas standard. In March, a resolution made by the National Immigration Council extended a Mercosur residency agreement to citizens in bordering countries that don't belong to the bloc, such as Venezuelans. The agreement allows for a temporary residency period of up to two years.

However, many of the more than 30 thousand Venezuelans who, ever since the neighboring country's crisis began, crossed over to Brazil, did not apply for residency cards due to the need to present official documents.

When asked for a comment, the Justice Ministry issued a statement that read "The Justice and Public Security Ministry will position itself and answer all questions made by the press once it has come into possession of the final draft."

Direita São Paulo/Facebook
Human rights entities are criticizing the 'regulatory decree' which they claim undermines the bill
Human rights entities are criticizing the 'regulatory decree' which they claim undermines the bill

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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