New Immigration Law is signed, with 20 vetoes, by President Michel Temer
President Michel Temer signed into law yesterday, May 24, the new Immigration Law (13.445/2017), which was unanimously approved in the Senate on April 18 (the bill had already been passed by the Lower House of Congress). In all, Temer vetoed twenty excerpts from the text, defying the broad consensus that had been built in Congress over the course of the passage of the bill – drafted by Senator Aloysio Nunes, who is now Minister of Foreign Relations.
Members of the Lower House of Congress and Senators will have 30 days from the time the Legislature is notified of the presidential signing to review the vetoes. The text will be then be regulated by an executive decree.
Click here to read the justifications from the Presidency for each of the vetoes.
Despite the changes, human rights organizations that accompanied the process in Congress believe that the vetoed version of the law still represents an important step forward for Brazilian immigration policy.
According to Camila Asano, coordinator of the Foreign Policy program at Conectas, “we are finally repealing the Foreigner Act, a law from the military dictatorship that is outdated and incompatible with the Constitution and with the international commitments made by the country”.
“The new text still has the merit of condemning xenophobia and discrimination, simplifying the regularization process, consolidating the policy of humanitarian visas and stopping detention for immigration reasons – which means that nobody can be deprived of liberty for being undocumented,” she added. “It also eliminates the ban on the rights of immigrant contained in the Foreigner Act – which barred them, for example, from taking part in protests – and guarantees them due legal process in cases of repatriation.”
But Asano also said that the 20 vetoes approved by Temer are “serious” because they “disrespect the nonpartisan efforts in Congress and the democratic participation of civil society throughout the entire process”. She explained that the changes weaken provisions that flesh out the principles expressed at the beginning of the law, such as “promoting legal entry and the regularization of documents”.
One of the most criticized vetoes in this respect was the exclusion of article 118, which granted residency to immigrants who were already in Brazil up until July 2016, regardless of their immigration status.
Not regularizing immigrants is seen as an obstacle to their social and economic integration. “The veto of this point is especially problematic because it shows that Brazil has not totally turned the page in its immigration legislation. If the veto is not overturned, we will miss the opportunity for a genuine new start, which is what needs to happen,” said Asano.
The measure known as “immigration amnesty” has already been granted twice before, by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1999 and President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva in 2009. “Temer has given another demonstration of his lack of commitment to good practices in human rights,” she said.
Conectas also laments the veto of paragraph two of article one, which dealt with the movement of indigenous peoples on land traditionally occupied by them. “Once again we see the Temer government directly attacking the right of indigenous communities to use their traditional lands. It is regrettable to see that the Executive has given in to spurious and unfounded pressure,” added Asano.
She also noted that many provisions of the new law require subsequent regulation. “The drafting of the decree that regulates the law must be participatory and transparent. It will be inadmissible for the Presidency to decide on this in the same way that it did with the vetoes: behind closed doors and ignoring the long process of building a consensus with civil society,” said Asano.
Click here for a list of myths and truths about the new Immigration Law.