BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri signed a decree that modifies the country’s immigration law in a way that will speed up the deportation process and bar entry into the country for foreigners guilty of serious crimes, the Official Bulletin of the Nation said on Monday.
“Faced with the recent notorious acts of organized crime, the government has had enormous difficulties in enacting deportation orders against foreign nationals as a result of the complex, repetitive procedures that in some cases can take seven years to process,” Macri said.
“Immediate” modifications will now be applicable in cases where foreigners involved in criminal acts have eluded immigration control to enter the country clandestinely.
Specifically, President Macri, who came to power in December 2015 and has the war on drugs as one of his top priorities, is modifying the current immigration law by means of a Necessity and Urgency Decree (DNU) to include “measures blocking the entry and stay of foreigners on national territory.”
In explaining these modifications, the bulletin notes that the number of immigrants in prisons around the country has increased in recent years to reach 21.35 percent of the prison population in 2016, and that of those convicted of drug trafficking, 33 percent are foreigners.
These and other matters have created what the government sees as “a critical situation that demands urgent measures.”
Reasons for blocking foreigners from entering and staying in the country include “having once been sentenced or currently serving a sentence, or having a criminal record or a sentence under appeal” in Argentina or abroad for crimes that, according to Argentine laws, deserve jail time, such as trafficking arms, humans or drugs, organs or tissues, or for money laundering or investing in illicit activities.
Such immigrants could also have committed “government acts or others,” such as genocide, war crimes, terrorist attacks or crimes against humanity, or any act accepted for trial by the International Criminal Court.
The bulletin also includes those who have records of terrorism, or have taken part in the for-profit smuggling of foreigners into the country, or have presented forged documents to obtain the benefits of immigration.
It also covers those who profit from prostitution, or who have been found guilty of crimes of corruption.
As exceptions, the government notes that under certain conditions it could admit into the country, “for the humanitarian reuniting of families or for having efficiently aided the justice system,” foreigners in some of those categories, or those who have committed crimes that in Argentina would not be sentenced to more than three years in prison.
This hardening of Argentina’s immigration policy has been debated for the past several weeks, with members of the opposition and social organizations accusing the government of using “slanted” statistics to place the blame squarely on foreigners for the crimes of drug trafficking.