Friday 3 February 2023

Foreigner resident forced to leave his Costa Rican children at San Jose airport and return to the U.S.

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3 February 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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(QCOSTARICA) Without fully understanding what was happening and without being able to say goodbye, a foreigner residing in Costa Rica was separated from his Costa Rican children upon arrival at the Juan Santamaría airport in San Jose and forced to return to the United States.

The arrivals hall at the Juan Santamaria International airport in San Jose

The incident occurred on the rainy morning of June 14, when Keith Clower and his two minor children, ages 10 and 14, were returning from an emergency trip they had to make to Florida due to the death of a relative.

Rebecca Savitsky Vargas, a Costa Rican and Clower’s ex-wife, told La Nación that she realized what had happened while she was waiting for her family outside the terminal.

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“I got a message from Keith. He told me that the boys had been taken elsewhere and he was not allowed to pass (…). They (the children) didn’t know what was going on, they just knew that they wouldn’t see their dad anymore.

“They were going to be taken away by the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (child welfare agency), it didn’t even occur to them to ask if they had a mother. It was when an airport employee that he came out and I asked him. He went back and returned with news,” said Savitsky.

The woman said that immigration officials prevented her husband from entering, alleging that the country had closed its borders to foreigners as part of the measures against COVID-19.

However, she alleged that his spouse is a permanent resident in Costa Rica and fulfilled the conditions established by the health authorities as exceptions to the incoming restriction.

She indicated that her ex-husband presented the documents that stated that he was the father of the minors and the death certificate of his sister, but that they still forced him to return on the same flight he came in on.

The family filed an appeal (recurso de amparo) to the Constitutional Court  or Sala IV, as it is commonly referred to, against Raquel Vargas, head of Costa Rican immigration service, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME).

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The appeal indicates that, in addition to failing to comply with the regulations established to allow foreigners to enter the country, the rights of the two minors were also violated.

Clower is currently in Florida awaiting a resolution.

Regarding this case, the DGME indicated: “the particular case of Mr. Keith Alan Clower, it is stated that he is a permanent resident and precisely had an entry impediment, a situation for which, despite appearing to be within one of the cases of exception to the restriction of entry, could not enter the country and the respective rejection was made”.

After the government imposed border restrictions to deal with the pandemic, which includes the entry ban of foreigner residents who left the country after March 24, immigration issued a series of provisions on exceptional cases.

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In fact, two circulars published in the months of March and April indicate that admission is allowed for foreigner parents with Costa Rican minor children who are duly accredited.

The foreigner’s family reported that the Sala IV admitted the appeal last Thursday. Now, they are waiting for some resolution.

The appeal requests that the director ff Immigration be ordered to nullify the administrative acts that prevented Clower from entering Costa Rica.

It also demands that the foreigner be allowed to return to the country as soon as possible in accordance with airport immigration procedures.

In addition, it requests that “the State be ordered to pay personal and procedural costs, as well as for damages generated by the reproached behaviors, basically represented in the pain, anguish, and uncertainty of those affected by not having their parent at their side, as well as for the expenses and charges assumed by Mr. Clower”.

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