Argentinian Immigration Policies Spark Backlash

At a Cabinet meeting  on January 31st, Bolivian President Evo Morales of Bolivia criticized recently issued Argentinian immigration controls as xenophobic and an affront to the Bolivian people. These new policies limiting entry and easing deportation have been controversial among neighboring heads of state, the Argentine opposition, civil rights groups, and immigration experts.

The new policies, signed into effect by Argentine President Mauricio Macri, are an attempt to strengthen border controls and combat issues stemming from globalization, international tourism, and the growth of international organized crime. They contain terms which that define and permit the expulsion of foreign nationals convicted of crimes and forbidding those with criminal records from entering the country. Claiming the need to take “urgent measures” to combat these issues, Macri avoided parliamentary discussion in the signing of these laws..  Promising to keep borders open and flexible to those looking to study or work in Argentina, he and his team have suggested creating a separate migratory penal jurisdiction and making immigration a much more restrictive process for delinquents.

Along with these new, controversial policies, Argentina also hopes to develop Advanced Passenger Information protocol (API) for buses in order to better control land entry. API already exists for air travel, requiring airlines to provide information on passengers entering Argentina before landing in the country. Its application to buses has been quite difficult due to technological hindrances, as bus companies do not yet have the digital networks necessary to implement API.

These policies aimed toward better regulation of land entry have come under criticism by many, including Morales. Worried that the implementation of these laws can lead to actions discriminatory or xenophobic toward Bolivian residents, Morales has sent a delegation headed by Chancellor Fernando Huanacuni to Buenos Aires to evaluate the situation of Bolivian migrants residing in Argentina. He has tweeted his concern, saying that he cannot understand how some countries in the region can “have the same attitude as the United States” on these issues. Besides Morales, Paraguayan Chancellor Eladio Loizaga has also voiced concern, promising that Paraguay will be “attentive and alert” to these developments and follow the subsequent changes closely.

Civil rights groups and the Argentine opposition have also expressed worry about migrants’ rights and denounced the policies as following the regressive example of U.S. President Donald Trump. Immigration experts have communicated the negative impact of holding migrants responsible for increases in organized crime rates and doubted the effectiveness of these laws. They are skeptical that these changes will positively affect crime rates and cite the need of bilateral transportation accords for the API to be properly implemented.

Despite domestic and international criticism, many Argentinians have indicated support for these immigration reforms. In response to President Morales’ comments, Argentine Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich explained that the new law uses the exact same conditions as those of Bolivian immigration policy. She insisted that “the new reform does not have anything to do with immigration, and instead has everything to do with delinquency.”

Thus far, Macri’s government has been struggling to avoid comparisons to the controversial immigration policies recently implemented in the United States and to prove that migrants’ rights will not be curtailed.