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Monday, August 26 2019 @ 01:36 am EDT

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for - The following information was received as a story submission, and it rings true. "This was forwarded from a friend, please let me know if you have any info. June 8, 2010 I am writing you this email to make you aware of some serious problems going on with Immigration Officials and the local police in Pedasi. On Saturday, May 29th, Patrick O’Brien and I drove out of Pedasi and headed to Limon to purchase some groceries.  Along the way, we picked up some surfers heading to Playa Venado.  We pulled into Limon and were confronted by a roadside stop manned by Immigration Officials. These people were stopping all vehicles and were asking for identification.

Patrick and I were asking for an explanation and received no answer. We handed over our US driver’s licenses.  These representatives were wearing plain clothes and had a name tag hanging off a shoelace around their necks. We continued to try to get some information as to what was going on, and we received no response.  Patrick tried to explain that we lived in Los Destiladeros and that we could provide passports and visas if they would let us go get the documents from our homes. We were instructed that we could not leave.  I have been coming to Panama for over 7 years and have never before experienced an immigration checkpoint.  These people had now retained several people and were not answering any questions.  They were in plain clothes and were not accompanied with the police.  I was beginning to think this was some sort of money extortion scheme, and certainly felt that my rights to be in Panama were being violated.

I got out of my vehicle and confronted the lady asking for an explanation.  No attention was given.  I contacted my attorney Damaso Diaz Ducasa, but he was not available in this moment.  I contacted another attorney, Berta Sanchez of Gray & Co.  I quickly explained the situation to her and asked for her assistance in talking to the woman who seemed to be in charge of this operation.  This lady refused to speak with my attorney.

Now by this time I was very angry and demanded my identification back. She pulled it out and reluctantly offered it to me.  I grabbed the ID and shouted at her that this was no way to treat a visitor to Panama or even a Panamanian. Patrick and I drove down to our homes and picked up our documents and returned to Limon to present these documents.  When we arrived, the officials had left the scene who were now accompanied by the local police.  We were told that they were looking for us and had plans to arrest us.  Note that these officials still have Patrick’s identification, a document that he needs to legally drive in Panama.

We told the local chino operator in Limon that if the officials wanted to find us that they could do so by coming down to Los Destiladeros. Later in the afternoon, we received a phone call from an employee of Sitio in Playa Venado.  She informed me that Immigration and the police had just arrested and took the owner, Nahik, and the same surfing tourists to the jail in Las Tablas.

The next day I heard some more disturbing stories about people being detained in the Las Tablas jail.  They were handcuffed to a pole, were not allowed any communication, and were told they would have to stay there over the weekend. Kirk Johnston of the Limon Cafe has since told me he was very offended by the Immigration people coming into his private office to look around.

Cliff, of Pedasi, was at his home over this past weekend, playing cards with some friends. The police showed up at his home and demanded identification. Three of the people didn’t have these documents on them and were arrested. Cliff objected and he too was arrested. He tells me he spent two days in a jail cell, handcuffed to a pole, with no ability to communicate to a lawyer. Other stories are beginning to circulate as well.

These kind of events are very disturbing. Is the government of Panama now empowering its Immigration employees to conduct random roadside stops, demanding proof of their legality to be in Panama?  Shouldn't Immigration issues be dealt with upon entry into the Country?  Are these same people now allowed to come to our homes to demand visitation and or residency documents?  If an individual objects to the demand to pay a random fine, is it now policy that they can be handcuffed and taken to jail, and handcuffed to a pole, without due process or basic rights to communicate with an attorney?

We are not talking about criminals here.  We are talking about tourists and local business operators and part time residents.  These are hardworking, responsible and law-abiding people. If this kind of policy continues, Panama is in trouble. Like wild fire, these stories will quickly spread and destroy Panama’s image as a great country to live and invest and more importantly, visit.

Please make this situation known to the appropriate officials.  I hope these events are just a random mistake and not indicative of a new Government policy.  Panama is a wonderful country with so much promise and opportunity.  Private property, privacy rights, rule of law and due process are institutions held very dear to the free world.  Panama would be the wiser to foster an environment that promotes and defends these institutions.

Sincerely, Douglas Lonneker, Panama cell 011 507 6780 9000, Panama home 011 507 832 5243 US cell 001 307 699 0960 skype douglaslonneker"

Editor's Comment: Interesting. Notice that the two guys who had passports and who were here legally were not, in fact, arrested. I have no way of knowing the immigration status of the people who were supposedly arrested and detained. The short answer is - realize that as part of the Martinelli strategy to clamp down on crime and "insecurity" in general, they are going to clamp down in illegal immigrants from all countries. Make sure you are legal, and make sure you have your documents with you. Or, you can just say you're a hooker, pay a $1,000 bribe, and walk right out. I've seen this before - the attitude, actions, and demeanor of the top person in any organization always filter down to the lower echelons. Obviously the word has gotten down to the local immigration officials in Pedasi that it's perfectly fine to seek out illegal immigrants, and then squeeze them for whatever you can get. That's why they don't want you to talk to a lawyer. There are serious problems in Immigration right now, from the top down.

Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 03:46 pm EDT

Its the law to carry ID, why would the cops let you go home and come back with it? what if you were actually a bad guy lead them in to a trap and killed them? I know it seems harsh if your innocent, but the cops are after bad guys and have to look out for themselves. You could have called anyone on the phone saying they are a lawyer etc, thats why the cops are not interested. If you dont have ID it makes you a suspect and they have to treat you as such. A little politeness from the cops of course would be nice, but dont expect that. Just always carry your ID with you or at least a copy of your passport with entry date stamp or proof of residency or residency application and avoid this kinda thing.

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 04:30 pm EDT

These events are frustrating and quite troubling. I worry about my wife and daughter out and about getting nabbed for no good reason. That being said, working in the field daily with Panamanians, I know that I (with my MI drivers license) get a lot more liberties at police road stops, etc., than does the average middle class Panamanian.

Furthermore, and sadly, I would argue that it's hard for those of us who are Americans to complain too much about this treatment. Firstly, Arizona basically codified into law the horrific "guilty until proven innocent" methods applied in Pedasi. Likewise my wife just called me today telling me that a friend who has lived (illegally) in the states for at least 6 years was deported yesterday to Puerto Rico, and has no contact with family, let alone knowing what has happened to her apartment, pets, car, worldly possessions that she had in Boston. I hope that living abroad raises awareness about immigration issues not only for Americans traveling abroad, but also for how our home country treats our immigrant population: "We are not talking about criminals here. We are talking about tourists and local business operators and part time residents. These are hardworking, responsible and law-abiding people."

Here Here!

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: susangg on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 04:43 pm EDT

Well, travel agents, hotels, airlines and anyone who deals with tourists need to do a better job advising tourists of the requirement that they carry either an original or a copy of their passports at all times (as for surfers heading to the beach, I wouldn't recommend bringing the original, but they should stick a copy in their shoe....) I always reinforce this with my guests.
That said, it seems that law enforcement officers are getting a green light to do pretty much whatever they want, including extort from any victim they can get their hands on. The pending legislation that would immunize law enforcement officers for any type of misconduct so long as it took place "on the job" reinforces that. It really is beginning to look like the much vaunted "campaign against corruption" is all smoke and mirrors, unless of course, you are talking about high ranking PRD people.
Re your comment that the folks who had their passports were not arrested is not quite accurate, unless I am misreading what you printed about "Cliff," who was arrested in his own home because three of his guests did not have required ID and he objected. Unless he used his fists to object, it was improper to arrest him, much less keep him handcuffed to a pole for 2 days.
It is looking more and more like noriegismo without Noriega, or at least the beginning of it.

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 06:14 pm EDT
Really it does not take a rocket scientist to know you have to carry the proper documents when you are in someone else’s country. My wife carried her green card for like ten years before she got her US citizenship, why because it was the law. AmazonMatt :” Likewise my wife just called me today telling me that a friend who has lived (illegally) in the states for at least 6 years was deported yesterday to Puerto Rico,” The US does not deport people to Puerto Rico as Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. Meaning that they have the same immigration laws as the rest of the US. If this person is illegal then this friend should have been deported!
"forget the truck. Everybody can buy a truck."
Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 07:04 pm EDT

The Law is very clear about having bona fide ID with you. Even in Canada if approached by a Police Officer you are requested to produce proper ID. If you do not have proper ID you are taken to the Police Station and can be charged as a "Vagrant" until someone comes to get you with your proper ID.

What is the big deal of complying with the Law in Panama? I have been coming here for 37 years and have never had problem because I always carry a miniture copy of my Passport which is considered proper ID. I also keep my mouth shut and do not make threatening gestures to Law Enforcement. Try living in Hong King, Dubai or Russia and see what happens if you wander around without any ID and yes even in the USA Law Enforcement has the right to enter a home if invited.

Panama is a great country to live in; however, we must obey 'their laws and rules'!

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 07:38 pm EDT

I was one of the people fortunate enough to be let go because I did have my passport. Now it did take immigration awhile to finally listen to me and look close enough at my passport to realize I was here legally. I do know of somebody, returning from Playa Uverito, that keeps a copy of his passport and immigration gave him a lot of grief because the copy wasn't in "Color". It seems as though things have mellowed out here on the Azuero.

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 08:32 pm EDT

Did any of the immigration officers ask for money?

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 10 2010 @ 08:26 pm EDT

BTW, I should have said: taken to a detention center in Puerto Rico, where she'll be processed to send to her country of birth.

It seems like the general consensus among commenters is that we should follow the laws of the host nation. Agreed. Let's just remember that Panama's laws are very clearly "papers, please" anywhere, anytime. The entity that I work for here in Panama made it quite clear to us that we're to have our documents on us at all times when out an about. I know that I am not personally as good about that as I should be.

For me the bottom line is that I don't like living under the spectre of "papers, please", here or back in the states.

Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, June 11 2010 @ 08:13 am EDT

My first advice to anyone travelling around Panama is always to carry a proper ID. My second advice is NEVER to pickup any hijacker, because you might become involved as an accomplice if the police finds some drugs on the person you just picked up. Remember that a good deed never goes unpunished. Finally, there is an awful lot of drug smuggling going on in the Punta Mala area, so be extra careful when travelling over there.

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, June 11 2010 @ 10:58 am EDT

Just an fyi, I am not Cliff and it is my understanding Cliff was playing cards at a local cantina and decided he needed to give the police some "directions", lol. Police DID NOT invade his home.

Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, June 11 2010 @ 08:49 pm EDT

it always seems to boil down to the same thing and the same people that get in trouble no matter where they are. Rules are there to be broken and ignored and if you can do it with an attitude as well............. So here's just one more case where the blame is placed on the authorities who just don't understand me and won't let me do what ever I want. When will these people learn that being prepared with what you need and facing the problem with a smile and some good will thrown in will make it all go much better. We are always on the go here and are always documented with the necessary papers, just like carrying your drivers license or green card or whatever in the States. Not all that hard unless you are trying to be a fool. Time to grow up people!