Argentina’s Minister of Security is reportedly seeking to accelerate the signing of agreements for database sharing with other governments of Latin America, prioritizing Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. It comes as an effort to bar admission to persons seeking to enter the country with forged documents or with a criminal records. Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said,  “A person who has a history in his country can’t enter Argentina.” Bullrich added, “That is why we want to have a database to analyze who arrives, especially with those countries whose immigration volume is important.”
 
The database exchange would not only control the entry of immigrants to Argentina, but also verify the nationality, identity, and actual existence. Many foreigners enter Argentina without proper documentation despite recent technological advances. “We want to know if a ‘Juan Pérez’ with that document number exists in his country, if he is a citizen,” Bulflrich said. “If he does not exist, he has a forged identity. And it is obvious that it will not have a medical record.”
 
Opponents of the databases say the current Argentine government is motivated by xenophobia. Citing Spain as and example, Bullrich said that immigration controls were tightened there and based on data exchange agreements with various countries’ registries. It was then that thousands of  supposedly “legal” immigrants had managed to enter Spain with forged documents. “We have no problem receiving students or people who want to come to the country,” she said. “But we do not want people who carry out criminal activities in their countries to come here. We have to stop being a sieve.”
 
Forged documents remain a problem for immigration authorities around the world. Late last year, for instance, the U.S. embassy in Ghana discovered that english-speaking criminals (someof whom were Turks) had set up an office in the capital city that posed as the legitimate U.S. consulate and issued fraudulent visas. The scheme had operated for several years under the noses of embassy security officials and Ghanaian law enforcement.
 
The issue of immigrants is gaining more currency in the South American republic. For example, Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto of the Front for Victory (FPV), the political movement of former leftist president Cristina Kirchner, said during a television broadcast that Argentin has had “very complex immigration and there is no reciprocity.” He asked, “How much misery can Argentina stand by receiving poor immigrants?” He added, “We must stop being silly. The world is changing. It is a world that is closing up.”
 
Pichetto said that Argentina serves as a “social escape valve” for Bolivia and a “criminal escape valve” for Peru. Pichetto said that Peru resolve much of its crime and security issues by transferring their drug dealing to Argentina. “The main towns of Argentina are taken over by Peruvians,” he said. “Argentina has to withstand all this hangover.”
 
As a result, social media was rife with comment, some of which repudiated Pichetto as a xenophobe. One tweet by a Horacio Pietragalla wrote “I strongly reject the xenophobic statements of Senator Miguel Pichetto. Talking like that to Latin American countrymen is ludicrous.” A tweet by Twitter user “Rara como Encendida” said “Tell me about your grandparents, Pichetto? How many university diplomas did they have? With what wealth did they establish themselves in our country? Surely, they were white.”
 
Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who came to power last year, had long warned about the problem posed by illegal immigrants coming to the country from bordering countries, including Paraguay. Argentina's relative development and wealth draws thousands of immigrants, legal and illegal, to the country from other South American republics. Argentina's security forces have warned against the arrival of armed narcotraffickers, especially from neighboring Bolivia.
 
Argentine Foreign Minister Susan Malcorra has been demanding better control over fraudulent documents. She said recently, "When you are receiving people who may have a criminal record, that is a special situation wherein it is not a migrant but someone who is found out to be a fleeing the law, or in an immigration status that is also criminal. She denied that the government's policy is anti-immigrant. She said it is intended to “preserve our country.”


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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