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Tuesday, July 17 2018 @ 01:38 PM EDT

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Surprise Resignation Of Immigration Deputy Director

Immigration IssuesThe announcement of the merger of Immigration and the Customs Authority is having its effects. Yesterday, the deputy director of the National Immigration Service (SNM), Jaime Ruiz, resigned to give 'greater flexibility' to President Ricardo Martinelli in choosing his team for the new institution. Ruiz denied to La Estrella that his resignation is related to differences between him and the director of NMS, María Cristina González. On the contrary, he said, 'we had a very good relationship." His resignation comes weeks after the scandals over alleged human trafficking and the granting of visas to Chinese citizens mainly that shook even the director herself and a number of officials. Ruiz only worked at Immigration for nine months. (La Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The National Immigration Service in Panama is one screwed up, corrupted organization. It always has been, I mean for years if not decades, and things have been no better under the administration of Ricardo Martinelli. Foreigners are in weak and vulnerable positions and it's easy for corrupt government officials to exploit them and their weakness, to extort bribes in exchange for services, visas, or to not be deported. The victims have nowhere to turn. If they try to file an official complaint the Director of Immigration has the unique authority to quickly deport any troublemakers - to literally toss them over the border and to get them out of her hair before anything can stick. She has already been officially and formally sanctioned by the Supreme Court - twice - for abuses of authority and human rights violations. I have no idea why she is still sitting in that position. None, whatsoever. Martinelli promised to clean up the corruption. Well, he has failed miserably with regards to Immigration. They are taking steps, and it takes time, but it's been a long two years thus far...

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Merger of Customs and Immigration will not cause layoffs: González

Immigration IssuesChitre, Herrera. The director of the National Immigration Service, María Cristina González, denied today, Monday, that the merger with the National Customs Authority will force them to reduce some of their staff. Gonzalez said, on the contrary, due to the construction of a new International airport and the expansion of the Tocumen International Airport, they will instead require more staff at Immigration. Gonzalez said with the enlargement of the Northern section of the Tocumen International Airport, they would require 125 additional staff members to work in migration issues.

In speaking about the allegations made against her, Gonzalez said the legal process is progressing. She added that she is a firm believer that the justice system should investigate all complaints. "I've always said that the lies walk until the truth finds them, and María Cristina González has managed to confirm that she is not being investigated or treated in any judicial process," she said. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Uh oh. As soon as they start speaking in the third person, that's a sure sign that they're slipping into the deep end ... happens every time. No, I mean it. It's not the first time that I've seen a government official backed into the corner, and at some point when talking to the press they pop into illeism for some weird reason.

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Director of Immigrations Now Can Not Issue Visas Due To Scandal

Immigration IssuesThe Security Council is the entity that will grant visas to citizens from restricted countries such as China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Cuba, India and some African nations, after an analysis conducted by President Ricardo Martinelli, security agencies and the Minister of Public Security," said yesterday Jose Raul Mulino. He added that the National Immigration Service will no longer be able to grant visas to citizens from these countries. "This decision was communicated to the Director of Immigration in Panama yesterday, and all the consulates worldwide. No consul can issue visas of this kind," he added.

Decree: Mulino added that today the President of the Republic would sign an executive order regulating this decision, with the aim of making it clear to the community that this decision has been made on instructions from the President in order to bring transparency and clarity until the implementation of the process of electronic visas is completed. This move comes after the corruption scandal generated over the alleged payment of bribes to officials of the National Immigration Service to grant visas to citizens of Chinese origin. (Mi Diario)

Editor's Comment: OK, so now we have a Director of Immigration that we don't trust to issue visas because she got caught selling visas (but we're not firing her), a Minister of Tourism who can't travel to the United States because embassy officials suspect he has links to drug traffickers so they yanked his visa (but we're not firing him), a Director of the National Police who participating in the kidnapping of US Citizens with allegations of war crimes (but we're not firing him). Anyone noticing a pattern here?

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25 Colombian Hookers Rounded Up In Raids in Panama City

Immigration IssuesAbout 25 women, mostly Colombians, were discovered in a "prophylactic" operation offering sexual services in the streets and nightclubs, and not carrying any documentation. Agents of Municipal Surveillance and the Justice of the Peace on duty, Genaro Barcenas, were deployed in various parts of the capital. They raided massage parlors, bars, nightclubs and other establishments on Ave. Mexico and Peru, as well as Calle Uruguay and Via Veneto, among others. (El Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Ah, so now the guys from the Municipality of Panama City are getting into the act. Notice in the photo that the cops are wearing the brown uniforms of the Municipal police, the yellow and red vehicle is also owned by the municipality of Panama City, and the back of the vest also identifies them as being municipal police officers. So, this isn't a "normal" Colombian hooker raid. These "raids" are normally carried out by the National Immigration Service, but this one was done by "agents of municipal surveillance" whoever they are (that's a new one on me) as well as a local Justice of the Peace. I know that when these women are picked up by Immigration they are usually "squeezed" for about $1,000 in bribes to be let go with no charges. I don't know exactly how the Municipal angle works yet. Let me find out and I'll get back to you.

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Presence of Undocumented Africans and Asians Worries Panamanian Officials

Immigration IssuesA new phenomenon of migration has been recorded in Panama with the emergence of hundreds of migrants from African and Asian countries, which regularly arrive Panamanian territory illegally from Colombia. Recently, the director of the National Immigration Service of Panama (SNM), María Cristina González, urged the Colombian government to implement appropriate immigration measures to stop this human tide that has filled the holding cells with undocumented migrants. Currently, among the detainees are 34 citizens from Bangladesh, seven from Pakistan, 23 from Nepal, three from India, and ten from Afghanistan, without forgetting that every month persons of other nationalities are released from countries such as Somalia and Eritrea.

According to Gonzalez, these groups of immigrants are arriving in the territory of Panama from Colombia, passing through the rugged mountains that divide the two countries, until they arrive at the Panamanian province of Darién. The immigrants from other continents use the connecting routes, by sea, from the countries to arrive on the Colombian coasts, and then they pass overland into Panama, with the purpose of using it as a step to reach the United States and Canada. The drama of many of these people, who come from countries in civil wars like Somalia, has been the subject of debate and attention of the National Organization for Aid to Refugees (ONPAR). Some qualify for this immigration status, so their cases in the immigration holding cells might extend to five months, such as the case of a group of immigrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan who are in desperate legal limbo.

The situation for the Panamanian immigration authorities is also difficult because they have to take over the maintenance of these individuals and provide health care when needed. Indeed, on 13 February, the situation of these people was so difficult that they decided to stage a protest in the premises of the immigration holding cells, asking for their release or deportation, but none of these measures was possible. It was impossible to release or deport them because the legal representatives of the detainees filed a request for habeas corpus before the Supreme Court, but those cases have not yet been decided.

In a similar case, the Pakistanis decided to conduct a hunger strike demanding that their cases be resolved quickly and after five days one of them, Mohamed Shafi, had to be rushed to the Hospital Santo Tomás in Panama City. Mohamed was sent to the emergency room of the main medical center in the Panamanian capital dehydrated and physically weak. Another group of these people, applied through ONPAR for political refugee status, but their cases also are delayed while the relevant agencies are assessing the conditions of each of the applicants.

The human face of the African and Asian immigration is becoming the new phenomenon of migration, and has caused the Panamanian authorities to step up surveillance on the southern border with Colombia, where we share a mountainous border of 266 kilometers. Gonzalez has spoken firmly to resolve this problem that afflicts the treasury and human resources of their institution, demanding that the Colombian government comply with immigration regulations and prevent the transit of such persons into Panamanian territory. The official said Panama would not be used for human trafficking because it is becoming a serious problem for Panama's security.

On 10 February, the governments of Panama and Colombia signed a bilateral agreement that will combat trafficking in persons, drugs and terrorism-related activities within its borders. The border area between the two countries has traditionally been the scene of illegal activities due to lack of effective controls on both sides, a situation aggravated by the existence inhospitable jungle mountain terrain. Over the past year, the deportation of illegal immigrants caused the National Immigration Service to spend more than $104,000 dollars in services and transportation. (La Estrella)

Editor's Comment: There's one important angle this story fails to mention. A few months ago a group of people who were supposedly poor Somali farmers were arrested in the Darien. They had apparently come from Africa across the Atlantic and arrived in Venezuela, then moved over sea and land to Colombia and Panama where they were apprehended. Each of them had a brand new Venezuelan passport and about $5,000 dollars in cash. An official from the US embassy told me they suspect these people were actually Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists who were trying to eventually infiltrate the United States through the Southern border with Mexico. The capture of these dudes was significant because it might end up being a "smoking gun" case of Hugo Chavez working together with terrorists, to help them with documents and ease of passage. Sure, this is an immigration issue for Panama, but there are much larger implications for the United States. People from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the jungles of the Darien in Panama on their way to the US? Not good...

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89 Illegal Nicaraguans Arrested (Immigration Action)

Immigration IssuesAbout 89 Nicaraguans who appear to not have their personal documentation in order were arrested by the National Immigration Service (SNM), said a spokesmen from the institution yesterday. The Nicaraguans were arrested as a result of a follow-up operation conducted by Immigration to detect foreigners who are in Panama illegally. The move comes amid new restrictive measures being applied against Nicaraguans when entering Panama. Immigration Director Maria Cristina Gonzalez said the Nicaraguans enter the country with false documents and in a condition of economic insolvency. 'We're continuing to monitor the entry of foreigners to prevent illegal immigrants from arriving in Panama," added Gonzalez. According to the institution in the first 37 days of the year 19 Nicaraguans were deported. It was reported that Panama spent $6,750 dollars to deport these people. Immigration now requires that all Nicaraguans have with them a minimum of $500 dollars in order to be able to enter the country, as well as a return ticket. In 2010 Immigration spent $440,702 dollars to deport foreigners. Members of the Nicaraguan National Assembly demanded last Tuesday that President Daniel Ortega and Foreign Minister Samuel Santos put restrictive measures in place for Panamanian citizens who enter the Central American country. (El Siglo)

Editor's Comment: It would be dumb for Nicaragua to put any kind of new restrictive immigration measures in place against Panamanians in retaliation, because there are no Panamanians who are going to Nicaragua to look for work. The Nicaraguans are coming here because there are jobs and opportunities that are not available in their home countries. Also, there's probably a degree of "payback" in this. When Panama was going through the process of pulling out of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), Nicaragua was one of the most vocal opponents. What's more, there might be some kind of an internal security element, considering that Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua are two of the most left leaning (communist) countries in Latin America, and Ricardo Martinelli is way far right. So, I'm not surprised that the government of Panama is using this route to kick the Nicaraguans in the nuts, just a little. And in any case the move is justifiable considering that the Nicaraguans are here illegally, working illegally, taking jobs, etc.

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Panama has adopted strict measures against Nicaraguan migrants

Immigration IssuesPANAMA CITY, Panama (ACAN-EFE) - The government of Panama has adopted strict immigration measures on the border with Costa Rica, faced with an increasing number of Nicaraguans who enter Panamanian territory on trips and then stay in the country illegally, said an official source. The spokesman for the National Immigration Service of Panama (SNM), Didacio Camargo, said Panama adopted these measures on 26 January 2011, and the problem arises when these illegal Nicaraguan citizens should be deported to their country by air. "The deportation can not be done by land due to the immigration controls established by the government of Costa Rica, and therefore this turns into a something very costly for the Panamanian state," said Camargo. Camargo explained that whenever there is a deportation, the Nicaraguans must first be transported from the province of Chiriqui to the capital of Panama City, and then sent via air to Nicaragua. As a result, Immigration has found it necessary to require that those Nicaraguans who intend to enter Panama via land for more than thirty days to have return air tickets in their possession.

"In addition, those Nicaraguan citizens who enter Panamanian territory by land must have with them a valid transit visa valid for 30 days issued by the consulate of Costa Rica in Managua," he added. Camargo said the agency spoke with the regular passenger transportation operators, who were warned that the measures adopted are with the companies that conduct tours to Panama. He said that just in January 2011 under these circumstances nine Nicaraguans were deported, which cost the Panamanian state $3,197 dollars, and during the year 2010 a total of 752 aliens were deported, most of them Nicaraguans, and they were returned to their respective countries for a total cost of $443,292 dollars.

Earlier this week, the Vice President of the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), the Sandinista legislator Jacinto Suarez criticized the immigration measures taken by the Panamanian government against Nicaraguan migrants. "The restrictions taken against Nicaraguans are ridiculous and it affects traders who come to make purchases, affecting their own business activities," said Suarez. (La Prensa)

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Crossing the border to Costa Rica by car

Immigration Issues"What is up at the border? I was going to get a "permiso de Salir" to drive to Costa Rica and a friend stopped by. He has a house in Costa Rica and Panama and has driven between more than 20 times. He told me don't bother you can't go anymore. His last trip to Costa Rica he purchased the Permiso de Salir as usual and drove to the border. He was denied passing the Panama side due to a new law that was posted on the window. You must be a resident to drive a Panama registered car across the border. Was he the only one? Is this real? So, I don't own my car? Any information about this would be more than informative. He is an american national."

Editor's Comment: Hmmm. No idea. I think this has to do with a band of car thieves who were stealing cars in Panama, taking them to Costa Rica, and then selling them. I know the government has tightened up considerably when it comes to driving from Panama to Costa Rica. However I'm still a little confused. The guy in question is an American, but where does he live? Where is his car registered? I suspect that whatever he wants to do can still be done, but just now there are additional steps, it's harder, more documents, etc.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Foreigners Detained For Not Having Proper Documents

Immigration IssuesFour foreigners with expired documents were retained by the national police operatives last weekend in the city of Colon. An 18 year old Dominican with expired documents was arrested in an operation in Cativá. A Colombian man aged 22, in the same situation, was arrested at Calle 13 Avenida Melendez in Colon. An undocumented 23 year Colombian was arrested on Calle 13 and Avenida Melendez. Another 25 year old Colombian was arrested on Ave Central in Colon for having expired documents. (La Critica)

Editor's Comment: The police are out there, and they regularly and routinely check foreigners' documents to verify their immigration status.

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FAQ: As A Foreigner in Panama Do I Have To Register With Immigration?

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this morning via email: "Hi Don - I hear references to a "Registro de Extranjeros" but am unable to find such a site on the Internet. I remember several years ago stumbling across an official site that told who had applied for residency, who the attorney was and the date it was approved, but I can't locate that anymore either. Do you have any information about anything to that effect? Also curious whether there is a published copy of the exam for citizenship or good information about how to go about the process of obtaining citizenship. Thanks! Susie"

Ask At Immigration: If I remember correctly, when foreigners want to stay in Panama as anything other than a tourist, they first have to "register" with Immigration in one form or another to define their status. Somewhere back there in my fading memory cells, I remember having to register in this way with Immigration as I started the process of obtaining my permanent residency status as "married to a Panamanian." I think this is a formality normally accomplished as soon as you apply for your pensionado status, or what have you. And as far as asking for a published copy of the exam for naturalization? I don't think they would give up the exam, but they probably have a list of material you would have to study or something like that - roughly equivalent to Third Grade Social Studies kinds of stuff. And once again, any good immigration attorney should be able to provide that for you. I tried getting some additional information from the Panamanian Immigration website, but it's apparently screwed up (now, there's a shocker) and it was no help whatsoever...

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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