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  • Patricia Bullrich Argentina Security Minister with microphone. 2017

    Patricia Bullrich Argentina Security Minister with microphone. 2017 | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 January 2019

President Macri is getting set to "retain" as many as 1,000 "illegal" and "criminal" immigrants and plans to lower criminal age to 15.

Argentina’s government is trying to move forward with security measures, including deporting 1,000 foreigners, as President Mauricio Macri gears up to run for a second term next October.

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Security Minister Patricia Bullrich says that the administration is planning to expel foreigners with criminal records or who have entered the country without proper documentation. She is also working on a bill to lower the age of criminal accountability to 15.

Bullrich says that the government already has a list of foreigners who could be deported for having a criminal record or are in the country without all immigration requirements, such as a visa. Bullrich says a more extensive deportation measure is being sent to Congress where the presidents Cambiemos coalition does not have a majority but is vying to make alliances with opposition legislators.

"There is already a list of people. It is a first part of a more extensive program that will be sent to Congress. But this (deportation of 1,000 foreigners) will be done through existing legislation," Bullrich told local media during an interview.

The “extensive program” includes the creation of a special unit within the federal police system to "retain" the immigrants.

"It is not that they are fugitives, but that they are called 'detained', due to their illegality" Bullrich said during a radio interview. The idea is to streamline the deportation process that, says the minister, "has taken years in some cases." A special judiciary process will also be developed, if Cambiemos can move ahead with the planned initiatives.

“The idea is that it could be a faster, faster process," Bullrich said.

The minister denied that the plan is xenophobic as some opposition legislators suggest.

"The objective is that everyone who settles in Argentina does so to set up their family, and not to come to commit a crime." Bullrich claimed that "20 percent of prisoners are foreigners."

According to Clarin, in Buenos Aires the percentage of foreigner convicts in 2018 was 17, up from 13 percent the previous year.

Bullrich then shifted her support to the government to give police in train stations and airports taser guns and to lower the criminal age to 15 years.

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This last policy, said Bullrich, was similar to the “zero tolerance on crime” policy enforced by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani when he was in office. "What he (Macri) does is endorse a little of Giuliani’s zero tolerance crime policy."

The minister is saying that these modifications to the criminal justice system "are very important and will radically change the security conditions in the future. She says that by lowering the criminal age, convicted youth will “understand the burdensome behavior that he or she has generated on society and their family.”

In December Bullrich announced a federal mandate that would allow Argentine police forces to use lethal force on civilians and to shoot suspects in the back without prior warning. The measure was struck down by a Buenos Aires court within 48 hours.

A Wednesday Clarin poll shows that Macri has a 40 percent approval rate, down from 60 percent in 2015. The president's three years in office have been marked by high inflation that has doubled to 50 percent from a year ago, reexposing Argentina to the International Monetary Fund, causing it to sell off billions in peso and dollar reserves in the form of short term bonds with interest rates of 70 percent.

The country is in its second recession since Macri took office.

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