(QCOSTARICA) With her seatbelt on and with minutes before the plane was to take off, 7 minutes actually, her name is called over the speakers. The flight to New York was full.
An immigration officer was waiting at the door of the plane for Patricia Carrera. She could not believe it, she was being told she could not leave the country, a woman she didn’t even know had filed a child support order (pension alimentaria in Spanish) against her.
She couldn’t believe this was happening. In the customs area, with her bags now off the plane, she sat crying. The holiday that she had planned for a half a year, was ruined. All for a mistake.
Patricia didn’t have any children.
It turns out the woman had mistakenly filed for the child support against Patricia, leading to her “impedimento de salida” (ban from leaving the country).
“It is a woman on woman. Only applicable if one is a mother. It was obvious there was an error. I do not know her. I have no children. Everyone believed I was taken off the plane for carrying drugs, it’s a shame especially for my husband who is a correct person,” said Carrera over the error that apparently was on file since February.
The event occurred last Wednesday, on a Copa Airlines flight leaving San Jose at 5:30pm. The flight took off without Patricia and her husband, at 5:37pm.
Given that Thursday was a legal holiday in Costa Rica, Patricia had to wait to Friday, when it took only 10 minutes for a judge to lift the ban. The court was in San Carlos, more than a 2 hour drive from San Jose.
An “Impedimento de Salida” is typically placed on a person involved in a criminal case and child support or alimony.
In years past, travellers at the airport, after checking in at the airline, would pass through an immigration checkpoint. Now, the immigration check is in the background: the airlines are required to submit their passenger list to the immigration service, which then cross checks the names and takes action, if required, that includes physically removing a person from the aircraft.
To avoid erroneous detentions or persons with bans from leaving the country, the immigration police now has an around the clock access to the judicial database. Judicial orders banning the leaving country are now available in real time, instead of what it would take at times days for the judge’s order (resolution) be sent by the court to the immigration service.
In the case of child support or alimony, a person with an impedimento de salida can make the required deposit at the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR), which information is also accessible in real time by the Feurza Publica (police).