Costa Rica’s Immigration Police have the right to detain foreigners and hold them for 24 hours while their agency investigates their travel documents, ruled the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) this week.
In doing so, Sala IV rejected a 2011 constitutional challenge of 13 articles of the Immigration law. The court heard testimony from several unions and associations representing foreign workers.
Sala IV judges refused to consider most of the articles but did debate Article 18 of the law and Article 31. They permit detention of foreigners in order to examine their migratory status.
If their status appears illegal they can be held up to 30 days, the court ruled. Acting Immigration director Freddy Montero said the ruling gives his police time check for illegal traffic of human beings, and false immigration papers.
(This country has a strong desire to halt human trafficking within its borders but but sometimes lacks the legal tools to follow up its humane inclinations.)
But Montero pointed out that the ruling should not raise fears of high-handed mistreatment of foreigners. Immigration cannot, says Artile 24, hold a passport indefinitely without a time limit placed on the confiscation. Only the courts have that power.
Immigration can hold a passport longer than 24 hours only if important considerations force it to do so and only with a formal resolution. Again, the courts may do this, but not Immigration.