Social Issues

Foreigners in Panama march against bill threatening their legal residence

Panama City, Mar 10 (efe-epa).- Around 100 international residents of Panama City marched peacefully on Wednesday to protest the possibility that parliament will repeal a decree, leaving approximately 60,000 of them without legal residence in the Central American country.

“The repeal of decree 249 (of 2019) is obviously going to affect us. There are thousands and thousands of families that are going to be affected by this,” said Yamilé Pérez, a Venezuelan national who participated in the walk called by the Association of Naturalized Residents of Panama (Arena).

Deputy Zulay Rodríguez, of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), presented on Aug. 10 the preliminary bill 075 to repeal executive decree 249 that establishes the procedure and requirements for permanent residence.

The decree allowed thousands of immigrants to obtain residence permits for between six and 10 years, and once they expire, they could opt for permanent residence.

“We must not allow this legal aberration to form part of our immigration legislation, and that those who obtained these permits through the Crisol de Razas programs, be benefited with permanent residence, when their regularization comes from their stay in Panama in an irregular manner,” says Rodríguez, who has presented several initiatives that seek to make it difficult for foreigners to stay in Panama.

Arena member Yokaira Plasencio said that in the organization everyone is “extremely concerned with the condition that awaits this group of foreigners from May, June and July” when the first provisional residence cards begin to expire.

The walk started from the Arena headquarters with the intention of reaching the National Assembly (NA) to deliver a letter on their position to the president of the legislative body, but they abandoned the plan to avoid incidents that could occur with the possible presence of infiltrators.

They opted instead for four members to deliver the letter to the NA president Marcos Castillero in which they asked that the association be able to participate in any type of decision made on 249.

“Zulay, do not promote the separation of families by repealing decree 249,” “Deputies, we hope for your support. Enough abuses,” and “We deserve permanence,” were written on banners carried by protesters at the beginning of the march.

Arena president Rafael Rodríguez told Efe that if the repeal of 249 is approved, approximately 60,000 foreigners who have resided in Panama for years will be affected, “because their five, six and 10-year (provisional residence) cards will begin to expire as of May, June and July.”

“They were excited that they were going to obtain permanent residence, but today they are surprised by the request that deputy Zulay Rodríguez is making.”

“I feel sorry for the citizens who will be affected. They are going to be on the street. Many of them have already made their lives here. Many of them are 18, 15, 20 years old already with a card in hand and today their future is really uncertain,” he added.

“Many have created families, many have created businesses, others have lived here their whole lives.” EFE-EPA

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