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Thursday, September 20 2018 @ 09:23 AM UTC

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National Immigration Service Implements New Uniforms

Immigration IssuesThe Director General of the National Immigration Service (NMS), Javier Carrillo, said on Sunday the new uniform that will be used by immigration officials working at all ports of entry and exit will create a degree of membership for the officials, while nationals and foreigners can feel the security and confidence that they are being served by an immigration inspector. Immigration officials started using the new uniforms on Friday, 2 March 2012, at the airport of Tocumen. The uniform consists of a white shirt and blue pants for supervisors, while inspectors will use a blue shirt and blue pants. The garment has a plate metal in the form of a star with six points to be located above the left pocket, and on the left sleeve will be the insignia of the National Immigration Service. When travelers using the Tocumen International airport were asked, they said they were pleased with the institutional measure, because according to them, is now very easy to distinguish an immigration official for any query or question. Immigration officials attended to more than 3.8 million travelers in 2011 throughout the country. The new uniform is being implemented in the coming days in all other immigration points of entry. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Good, needed change. Javier Carrillo has his shit together. He used to be the Director of the DIJ, and he was promoted to run Immigration after Martinelli fired Maria Christina Gonzalez.

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Cubans Passing Through Panama To Reach The United States

Immigration Issues Angel Espinosa Mateo is a Cuban meteorologist who as of today has been in the United States for three weeks. He has moved towards his countrymen in Florida after taking advantage of the "Dry feet, wet feet" policy the United States implemented in 1995, exclusively for Cubans. His story has Panama as its epicenter and there are few people here know know what's going on. Espinosa was one of the many illegal Cubans immigrants who entered Panama through the border with Colombia, after passing through the bowels of the Darien jungle, likely to die from a snakebite or being devoured by a carnivorous animal. In Panama he got lucky and his goal of reaching the United States to be with his wife was at hand. But it was not to be, and a bad move almost caused him to be deported. His time in Guatemala was an ordeal and he had no choice but to surrender to the authorities of the Tapachula immigration prison, the first border town between Mexico and Guatemala. He was about to be sent back to Cuba from there, but he was released after pleading his case to Human Rights officials. He was eventually released and he finally was able to step on US soil. His greatest fear - which he shares with most of his countrymen as he described in an interview - was to be deported back to Cuba. Before that, he preferred death.

Crowded Conditions: Since last year when the Immigration Service in Panama started to report the numbers of Cubans who have been caught illegally entering the country from Ecuador to Panama, the problem has gotten out of the hands of the authorities. There is a shelter on Albrook that receives the undocumented illegal aliens, and it's full - leading to overcrowding conditions at the site that was built to house 70 people. Arrests have been on the rise in the past two months, and now the authorities are arresting nearly 30 Cubans per week.

The Director of the Immigration Service, Javier Carrillo, said he does not have the room to handle any more detainees where there are 60 Cubans and other nationalities. "We are giving them a period of 30 days to fix their (immigration) status and then they continue on their course," he said. Carrillo explained many of these people do not return within the period of 30 days, so they assume they have gone on to Miami, the destination where most Cubans will stop.

Special Treatment For Cubans - What guarantees that the Cubans will leave Panama? Against this rising tide, this week the Immigration Service started a new "tourist in transit" visa for the Cubans who come to Panama from another country, that's good for 24 hours. According to Carrillo the new regulation created the subcategory of "Visa For A Tourist in Transit Within The Immigration Category of Non-Resident" for foreigners who are Cuban who are traveling through Panama to another destination, or who will return to their country. The official said the immigration provision passed this week only allows the migrant (Cuban) to remain in the international transit area of the ​​Tocumen Airport, so they can continue their journey. The Cubans who are not residents in Panama may request the visa in person at the Panamanian consulates in the country where they are with a minimum of ten days before the date of travel. According to official statistics, last year the Immigration Service sent a total of 413 Cubans to the shelter at Albrook. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment:The wet foot, dry foot policy is the name given to a consequence of the 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 that says, essentially, that anyone who fled Cuba and got into the United States would be allowed to pursue residency a year later. After talks with the Cuban government, the Clinton administration came to an agreement with Cuba that it would stop admitting people found at sea. Since then, in what has become known as the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, a Cuban caught on the waters between the two nations (i.e., with "wet feet") would summarily be sent home or to a third country. One who makes it to shore ("dry feet") gets a chance to remain in the United States, and later would qualify for expedited "legal permanent resident" status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship.

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All Is Well On The Western Front (Paso Canoas)

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this afternoon via email: "Hi Don. We left Panama yesterday (Thursday) and came back Thursday night. Paso Canoas was so busy with buses at 7:45 a.m. we turned around and went to Rio Sereno. No problems, through in less than 1/2 hr. We spent the day in Costa Rica and were back at Paso Canoas at 7:45 p.m. It was smooth, a short line at Immigration and the usual paperwork process for our vehicle at Customs. Everybody seemed relaxed and in a good mood. We were through in 1 hr. 5 min., almost a record for us. It looks like business as usual. Tom."

Editor's Comment: Glad to hear it. Thanks for the update.

Copyright 2012 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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Paso Canoas Border Crossing Closed To Foreigners Since Last Friday

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - According to AM Costa Rica and posts on English language message boards, border control officials in Costa Rica at the Paso Canoas border crossing are preventing everyone but Panamanian citizens from leaving. Supposedly the President of Costa Rica flew to the border crossing last Friday and gave the order personally. At the time about 42 Costa Rican tourists were being held "hostage" by the protesting indigenous Ngäbe-Bugle Indians on the Inter American highway. Presumably, the Costa Rican officials decided to prevent anyone other than Panamanians from crossing into the conflict area, for their own safety and protection. Of course, this being a part of the third world, some people were simply paying low level officials bribes to circumvent the restriction.

Copyright 2012 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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Panama opts for OTI (Contract Awarded)

Immigration IssuesPanama’s Ministry of Public Security has awarded On Track Innovations (OTI) a contract for the supply, design, installation and integration of systems to monitor and improve immigration verification processes and overall immigration flow. OTI says it expects to achieve revenues of approximately US$6.9 million, with the potential for additional revenue in future years from follow-on contracts. The contract provides for the supply of OTI’s immigration solution, based on its proprietary eID Magna platform. The solution includes data enrollment and issuing stations, as well as individual means to verify identity tied to the Biometric Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). “We are happy to expand our footprint in Latin America to support Panama’s efforts to improve identity verification at their borders,” says Oded Bashan, chairman and CEO of OTI. “By deploying our solution, Panama is taking firm control of immigration security and identity to diminish the substantial risks and costs of illegal immigration and identity theft.”

According to the company, its Magna modular platform enables short implementation time frames and seamless integration with a country’s existing border control system. It also provides external interfaces to a digital Certificate Authority for signature verification. The system is compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and offers a migration path to additional eGovernment applications and eID documents such as national IDs, voter IDs and driving licences.

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"Panama Is Being Invaded By Cubans" - Director of Immigration

Immigration IssuesEvery week Panama arrests an average of 30 Cubans who are trying to reach the United States, a situation that is becoming a "concern" for the country, said Thursday the Director of the National Immigration Service, Javier Carrillo. "We are capturing about 30 Cubans per week, which is a lot for us," Carrillo said in a meeting with foreign correspondents. He added that since August 2011, Cuban immigrants have been gaining entry into Panama from Colombia through the jungles of the Darien (the border between the two countries), which has intensified recently.

He said the Cubans arrive in Ecuador, where there is no visa required, and from there they enter Colombia to continue a journey through Central America to reach the United States. "We have some problems with the Southern area where some countries have open immigration policies. We are being invaded by Cubans," said Carrillo, who called this fact "worrying". Overcrowding in the holding cells where the captured illegal immigrants are taken complicates the picture, and what's more, when they try to deport them to Cuba, that country's authorities reject them.

The complications caused by the illegal entry of Cubans to Central America will be one of the primary topics to be discussed by the Directors of Immigration from the United States, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Panama on 2 and 3 February in Panama. "We will focus on this issue of human trafficking. We're having a big problem that affects us all," lamented Carrillo, for whom one of the measures against the problem would be to ask Ecuador "to start to require Cubans to have a visa." (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: It's funny how people and things come out of the Darien jungle in Panama, trying to make it all the way to the United States.

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Human Rights Ombudsman Makes Surprise Inspection at Immigration Holding Cells

Immigration IssuesPanama's " Defensoría del Pueblo" (Human Rights Ombudsman) will investigate allegations of human rights violations of some 25 foreign women who are currently being detained in the holding cell of the National Immigration Service, located on Avenida Peru. This was announced by the Ombudsman Patria Portugal, after she made a surprise visit to the facilities of the National Immigration Service to receive complaints from the detainees. "The detainees say the authorities have been slow in resolving their processes, and they have been stripped naked, which is why we are investigating," she told local media. She added there is overcrowding in the holding cells and the 25 women (10 Cubans, 7 Nicaraguans, 7 Colombians, and one Dominican) only have 22 beds. According to officials from the National Immigration Service, the delay of the proceedings has been caused by the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), said Portugal. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Great! I think the Ombudsman should always know (receive regular reports) on how many people are being detained, anywhere in the country, at any time. And something like this - 25 women in a temporary holding cell only designed to sleep 22 - would instantly become apparent. Every foreigner who is arrested or detained in Panama for any reason should be handed a pamphlet written in their native language with details on the law, their rights, and what they should do in case of abuses. Anyway, I'm glad to see this - it's a step in the right direction. Immigration in Panama has traditionally been one of the biggest "producers" for corrupt government officials who suck bribes out of defenseless foreigners in exceptionally vulnerable situations. Remember that the former director of Immigration Maria Christina Gonzalez was fired by Martinelli for these kinds of abuses. Any case against her? Investigation? Charges? Nope. She's fired, and that's it...

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The Panama Perpetual Tourist Border Hop Two Step - Separating Fact From Fiction

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - There are many who live as "perpetual tourists" - people who initially come to the Republic of Panama as tourists - and then they basically stay and live here forever in the same status as a tourist without obtaining some other sort of more permanent or legal residency status. Tourists who come to Panama can stay here for a maximum of 90 days, but then the government of Panama can grant a 90 extension to a total of 180 days (more later.) But no matter what, any tourist who overstays past the 180 day limit are then in an illegal status with regards to the National Immigration Service. By doing this they are exposing themselves to the potential for arrest, fines, and deportation. In order to remain in a legal status with regards to the Panamanian National Immigration Service, these "perpetual tourists" have to leave the country regularly in order to "reset" the tourist visa status with a new date of entry. People commonly travel to the international border with Costa Rica at Paso Canoas in order to accomplish and comply with the requirement of leaving the country, at least temporarily. I call this the "border hop two-step" because the perpetual tourists have to simply "hop" across the border and enter Costa Rica (or any other country) and then return to Panama (step two) in order to reset their tourist status for another 180 days. Recently there have been interesting and lively discussions between members of the English speaking expatriate community on a couple of the different Internet forums regarding the details of the requirements that must be met, tricks and techniques on how to go about doing this "border hop two step," and the potential risks involved. I thought I knew enough about the details of this particular issue but now it appears I was wrong, and that I was holding as true some commonly held perceptions that are not, in fact, contained in the underlying law. So, I did my own investigation and now I'm writing this article in order to set the record straight. (more)
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137 Foreigners Caught Using Falsified Travel Documents and Double Identities

Immigration IssuesThey entered illegally. During the recent "melting pot" program, the authorities of the National Immigration Service and the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (IMELCF) found in the capital city there were 106 foreigners who committed the crime of duplication of documents. The same situation was repeated in Chitré with 31 people. Abdiel Renteria, the Deputy Director of Criminology, said they found individuals who entered the country using two different names but with the same fingerprints, proving they had falsified their travel documents. Some of these people had criminal records. (Dia a Dia)

Editor's Comment: So, it took them awhile to run matches on the prints of the people they have processed during these recent "melting pot" programs. I know they arrested a whole bunch of people who had legal cases pending against them, as well as wants and warrants. And now they've uncovered 137 people who applied to try to obtain a legal residency status in Panama using false passports or other documents. Now they will be arrested and deported. Well, no real change actually - they were already living here illegally. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

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Immigration Will Hold Eighth "Melting Pot" Event in Chitre

Immigration Issues#Panama - A new round of "extraordinary migratory regularization" is being held by the National Immigration Service, this time in Chitre, province of Herrera, for foreigners living inside the country. This will be the eighth time Immigration has performed what they call the "Panama Melting Pot" event, which will run from 21 to 25 November 2011. During this event in Chitre, foreigners who reside in the four central provinces will have the opportunity to make the necessary arrangements (to legalize their immigration status.) Previously, Immigration has conducted seven other regularization events for foreigners, during which 16,200 citizens from other countries have taken steps to normalize their status in Panama. Of that amount, the majority are Colombians, because during the seven prior events, about 8,000 Colombians heeded the call. In second place are citizens of Nicaragua with 3,600, followed by foreigners from the Dominican Republic, Peru and Venezuela. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: So that's 16,200 foreigners who were illegal aliens before, and who have legal residence and work permits after. That means they can go on the books, pay social security and income taxes, and leave the "grey market" workforce. People who are in Panama and working illegally from countries like Colombia can find jobs, but they typically get paid about 25% less than minimum wage, and they have no protections under the law. If they complain they get deported. The Panamanian economy is growing in leaps and bounds and creating more new jobs every day, and this is one way the government is addressing the issue, by legalizing foreigners who have been living here illegally for a long time.

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