Monday, April 14, 2014

Framing Immigration in Costa Rica

Caitlin E. Fouratt, "'Those Who Come to Do Us Harm': The Framing of Immigration Problems in Costa Rican Immigration Law." International Migration Review 48, 1 (Spring 2014): 144-180. Gated link


This article examines the political rationales at work behind the particularly repressive 2006 Costa Rican immigration law and subsequent immigration reform process and resulting 2010 law through an analysis of two rival framings of immigration in Costa Rica. First, I examine how the rushed nature of the 2006 law constructed a crisis in which migrants, particularly Nicaraguans, represented urgent threats to national security. Next, I examine the 2010 law that emerged from the reform process and the alternative framings of immigration as an issue of human rights and integration that migration advocates contributed to the new law. I argue that the juxtaposition of integration and security frameworks in the new law reinforces the law's most repressive measures, contributing to an overall project of securitization and marginalization of immigrants.

This should sound familiar! She starts with a quote from a member of Congress, and this could've come out of the mouths of any number of counterparts in the United States:

…Costa Rica continues being Costa Rica, although we have been bombarded by brothers from third countries and our borders have remained open, unfortunately, for many who do not come to Costa Rica to do good, but rather to do bad, many of them come to kill our women; many of them come to rob our banks; to rob our sons and daughters in the streets […] the moment has arrived for making decisions to not continue with the windows and doors of our house open so that anyone can enter, and although we give them our heart, although we care for them, they come in to our house to rob us, to rape us. […] Mr. President, fellow Congressmen and women, […] why continue opening [the country, the border] to those who come to do harm, to collapse our education system, to abuse our medical services?”

The nasty immigrants are coming for our women!

When I was in Costa Rica a few years ago, I heard disparaging comments about Nicaraguan migrants more than once in only a short visit. It's like Leo Chávez's argument about a "Latino threat narrative" in the United States. As Fouratt notes, the security narrative that existed in the U.S. and then accelerated after 9/11 is being incorporated elsewhere. It's remarkable how similar the entire process is to the United States, including increased reliance on ad hoc administrative solutions to problems that legislation creates and does not deal with adequately.


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