By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Senate in Brazil approved on Tuesday, April 18th, the Nova Lei das Migrações (New Migration Law) which establishes rules for the entry and residence of immigrants in Brazil. Now to go into effect it must be signed by President Michel Temer.
Among the items of the new law is the guarantee of equal status of immigrants to that of Brazilians and access to public health and education services. The law also calls for the issuance of documents that allow immigrants to enter into the labor market and the right to social security benefits.
Senator Tasso Jereissati, the rappourter of the bill celebrated the approval, saying, “There is a change of paradigm, of spirit, in which the immigrant is no longer seen under the police optics of mistrust, of criminalization.”
“Subjected to the law, like any good Brazilian citizen, he will be welcomed here in his authentic desire to integrate with our people, working and building a new life,” said the senator at the end of the session.
Some however criticized the text approved on Tuesday. “Today all countries are strengthening their border police positions. And we, with this totally anachronistic law, going against it,” said Senator Ronaldo Caiado in the Senate floor.
According to Caiado transit of the different indigenous populations along the Southern, Northern and Western borders of the country brings about national security concerns. These indigenous tribes’ territories often encompass two countries, with the indigenous population in many instances not respecting internationally-set country boundaries.
For Caiado, this means “opening the frontiers” of Brazil and can facilitate drug trafficking, especially from Venezuela, Colombia and Paraguay.
Jereissati rebuked his colleagues observations. “What the law wants is to ensure that this authentic indigenous person is not shamed or threatened if he eventually crosses a border marked by the white man within a region that for centuries his ancestors have inhabited,” said the Senator
“From that, to imagine that hordes of narcotraffickers, terrorists and guerrillas, impersonating indigenous people, can use this law to invade the country, as has been disclosed in certain social networks, is an abyssal distance,” he concluded.
The law also grants permanent residence to immigrants who are in the country legally or illegally. The rule is valid for immigrants who entered Brazil before July 6, 2016 and who apply until one year after the beginning of the law, regardless of the previous migratory situation.
The subject of migration has been debated in the Brazilian Congress for over four years with suggestions from dozens of national and international organizations, government agencies and non-governmental entities. It is estimated that approximately one million foreigners live in Brazil today, including those seeking refugee status.
Yet according to lawyer Grover Calderon, president of the ANEIB – Associação Nacional de Estrangeiros e Imigrantes no Brasil (National Association of Foreigners and Immigrants in Brazil), there are approximately 60,000 foreigners in Brazil today who will benefit from the law’s amnesty clause and who cannot be considered a refugee.
Also not included in the amnesty would be nationals from Mercosur countries, with the exception of Venezuela, (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname) who are automatically granted authorization to live in Brazil.