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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 20                Email us
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Hotel chamber asks that line be held on exchange rate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican hotel chamber painted a grim picture Monday as it urged the legislature to prevent so-called speculative capital from depressing the value of the dollar further against the colon.

The chamber, the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles, also urged more stability in the government and incentives for tourism.

The chamber said that a reduction in the rate of exchange with the dollar from 575 in 2009 to the current 500 colons has cost the industry 14.6 percent of its income. Yet costs have increased, it said, giving these figures:

Goods and services have increased 17 percent, according to the Instituto de Estadística y Censos in the same period. The Banco Central and the Ministerio de Trabajo estimate that salaries are up 22.8 percent. Water has increased 27.6 percent and diesel has gone up 24.95 percent. A new increase in the water rates will mean a 100 percent increase.

The chamber said that the hotel industry has lost 15,000 direct employees due to the economic crisis. There are about 400,000 employees remaining, it said.

Of particular concern is the fear that the Banco Central will stop supporting the value of the dollar in the face of large amounts of speculative dollars entering the country.

President Laura Chinchilla has sent to the legislature a bill that will give the Banco Central the power to put a surcharge on what it sees as short-term speculative money leaving the country. But the lawmakers have not yet acted.

The chamber also said that the blindness of the government has caused the industry to lose its competitive edge in relation to other Latin nations.

The tourism sector has been considered the goose that lays the golden egg, and the income generated from tourism has filtered into the entire economy, it said. But now there are all kinds of obstacles facing hospitality providers, said the chamber.

And some hospitality operators have left the industry, it noted.
 The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has a Web
 page with this and special tourism offers, but
 the Alexa rank is lower than 1.7 million, meaning
 hardly anyone is seeing it.

The chamber did not mention it, but there have been taxes imposed and increased on tourist travel. The latest is a $1-a-head increase in the $28 exit tax to support foundations and agencies purporting to fight sex tourism.

Although the hotel chamber wants the legislature to pass a law or laws restricting the investment here to take advantage of high interest rates, there is little evidence that the measures in the hopper now will do that. There also is a possibility that imposing restrictions would be a violation of the Central American Free Trade Treaty.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman declined to address that issue last week, saying that diplomats there do not comment on private conversations with Costa Rican officials or on pending legislation. 

However, an article in the free trade treaty seems to prohibit restrictions on investment earnings.

The early party of the last decade was the golden years for Costa Rican tourism. In fact, there were calls for quicker construction of hotels in anticipation of many more tourists. A lot of the hotels that were built are owned by chains, and, as the hotel chamber notes, about 80 percent of its members are small operations.

Even during this high season, few smaller hotels are at capacity.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 20
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Former lawmaker finally
surrenders in San Carlos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial confirmed Monday that former lawmaker  Rigoberto Abarca had surrendered to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The former lawmaker faces five years on a charge of embezzlement. The case involves the use of public funds in the purchase of property.

Abarca made the news because when the Sala III confirmed that he would be going to prison, he was in Nicaragua. He reported that he had business there. Costa Rican officials put out an international arrest warrant for him.

The Sala III changed the charge from misuse of public funds to embezzlement. The appeals court had the power to do this based on the evidence.

The Poder Judicial said that Abarca showed up at the offices of judicial investigators in San Carlos with family members and a lawyer. The original case was in the Tribunal de Juicio de San Carlos

Abarca served as a lawmaker for the Partido Unidad Socialcristiana from 1998 to 2002 during the administration of Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría.

Legislative committee gives
media a major social role

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative committee does not want the media to glorify drug use, trafficking in persons or trafficking in firearms.

In fact, the committee, the Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad y Narcotráfico says the media plays an important role in  socializing individuals.

There is an agency that is supposed to watch out for what shows up in news reports, movies and even the Internet. It is the Consejo Nacional and the Comisión de Control y Calificación de Espectáculos Públicos, an agency in the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz.

The sudden interest in the content of media appears to have been sparked by a plan by Canal 6 to show the television series Escobar, el patrón del mal. The series is a fictionalization of the life of Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord. He was killed by police in 1993.

The 70-part series was a big hit in Colombia.

Meanwhile, the legislative commission is calling on the media not to promote the consumption of drugs and to air educational programs and analysis for youngsters and adults over the need to combat these social ills.

Geothermal experts mourned
by telecom company execs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Executives at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad are mourning the death of Alfredo Mainieri Protti, a man they call the pioneer in developing geothermal energy in Costa Rica.

Mainieri, 69, died Monday.

The telecom company established its first geothermal plant in 1994 at Fortuna de Bagaces in Guanacaste.  It said now about 14 percent of the electricity is generated through geothermal plants.

Spanish center plans rock festival
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Spanish cultural center plans a rock festival in Parque Morazán at noon Feb. 16 and 17.

The center expects more than 15 bands, both Costa Rican and international, to participate, said an announcement.

The event is called  Festival de Rock El Farolito. One of the goals of the event is to promote local musicians and bands. This something that the festival has done for six years, the announcement said.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 20
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This is part of the 1920 text by María Cristina Guzmán Acosta in which she said poetry just requires paper and ink
Costa Rican poets gather Thursday to honor one of their own
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Poetry is sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of the arts. It does not get a lot of respect.

In part, that is because anyone with a pen and paper can call him or herself a poet.

Some expats think less of Latin poetry because it appears easier to compose verse in Spanish than in English. But poetry is not just rhyming the ends of lines. A successful poem causes the listener or reader to think of something new. Something that has not existed previously.

For example, Costa Rican poet Luz Alba Chacón León penned a book with the title Burbujas rasgando el silencio. The English translation is "Bubbles Tearing the Silence." That seems to be a unique concept.

Ms. Chacón has done much more than that, which is why she is being honored Thursday, the Día Nacional de la Poesía.

The Archivo Nacional is setting up an event with Ms. Chacón and four other poets.  It is called Atabal del alba, which is best translated as a "Drumroll for Alba."

The participating poets are Lucía Alfaro, Julieta Dobles, Ronald Bonilla and Leda García.

Ms. Chacón was director of the Archivo Nacional from 1980 to 1991 and has received a number of awards for her poetry. After she retired, she did more writing and is a mainstay in writers groups.

The national day of poetry was decreed in 1966 for the birthday of  Jorge Debravo, a poet from Turrialba, according to the archive.

As expected, the archive has historical material connected with poetry, including the first anthology or collection of Costa Rican poetry, Lira Costarricense published in two volumes, one in 1890 and the second in 1891.

1890 poetry
Archivo Nacional photo
The nation's first poetry anthology, published in 1890.

There also is an essay by a first year teaching student, who wrote in 1920 that "The great part of the people are devoted to poetry because nothing more than paper and ink is needed, but rare and chosen are those who know how to make verse." That student was María Cristina Guzmán Acosta.

The poetry gathering Thursday is at 3 p.m. in the Archivo Nacional. It is free and open to the public.

Law officers wage war on southern zone marijuana plots
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents and security ministry officers last week put a dent into a major cash crop.

Agents said they discovered six locations where marijuana was being grown hidden among corn plants and other crops near Telire in the Talamanca mountains in southeastern Costa Rica, they said. Agents said they spent fire days destroying plants. The security ministry's Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea provided transportation. With agents were members of the Policía de Fronteras.

On the western side of the mountain Fuerza Pública officers were busy destroying plants, too. Officers said they burned  51,466 plants in Chacarita, Finca Puntarenas, Santa Rosa, Cerro Danta and Ojochal.

The security ministry said that the Policía de Control de 
Drogas,  Fuerza Pública officers from San Vito, and members of the Unidad de Intervención Policial were involved. The Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea also was involved here, too. Spotters in planes located possible marijuana plantings, and officers had to trek to the locations to verify and then destroy the plants if they were marijuana.

Police said they encountered some high-grade marijuana plants as well as the more common Costa Rican varieties

Judicial agents said they detained the owner of one property where marijuana was found in the Talamanca mountains. They also detained a man who had an unregistered rifle and said they thought he was guarding the plantings.

Marijuana grows wild in the mountains, but cultivated plants provide income for the native residents.

Such efforts to chop down plants take place frequently.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 20
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Like the housefly, the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the dengue virus is a homebody, perfectly adapted to the domestic life of humans.

Centers for Disease Control photo

Peru study shows that dengue mosquitoes hang around humans
By the Emory University news service

The mosquitoes that spread dengue fever tap into the domestic networks of humans, along with their bloodstreams, according to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The data from Iquitos, Peru, shows that the trail of the most rapid transmission of human infections does not lead through large, public gathering places, as might be expected, but from house-to-house, as people visit nearby friends and relatives.

“It’s common in a dengue fever outbreak to first treat public places like schools for mosquitoes, but our results show the focus needs to be on residential networks,” says disease ecologist Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec.

Vazquez-Prokopec and Uriel Kitron, both from Emory University’s department of environmental studies, conducted the spatial-temporal analysis as co-authors of the study, led by Steve Stoddard and Thomas Scott from the University of California, Davis. The research is part of a major, ongoing dengue project that also includes scientists from the U.S. Navy, the University of Iowa, Tulane University, San Diego State and researchers in Peru.

“On a global scale, human air travel is known as a driver of dengue virus circulation, but this is the first time we’ve quantified the powerful impact of human movement on the small scale of neighborhoods,” Vazquez-Prokopec said.

Substandard houses in Iquitos are havens for the mosquitoes that spread dengue.

The tropical disease is caused by a virus that is passed from the blood of one person to another through the bites of mosquitoes. Also known as break-bone fever, dengue causes debilitating pain leading to the hospitalization of many sufferers. Severe cases can be fatal.

“It is vicious, and rapidly growing as a threat,” Vazquez-Prokopec says.

During the last 50 years, the incidence of dengue has increased 30-fold and more than half the world’s population is now at risk. The World Health Organization estimates that 50-100 million dengue infections occur each year. That number is expected to rise as the climate warms and the trend toward urbanization continues.

Costa Rica sees thousands of cases on both coasts each year.

During 2009 and 2010, dengue fever emerged for the first time in decades in the contiguous United States, when an outbreak in the Florida Keys led to 93 cases.
“There is no vaccine for dengue. The only way to control outbreaks is to kill the vectors – mosquitoes,” Vazquez-Prokopec said. Many of the places affected have poor public health infrastructure, he adds, so it’s critical to identify the most effective places to spray for the insects.

A 2009 outbreak of dengue in Iquitos killed at least 24 people and drove almost 1,000 sufferers to the hospital, where cots had to be set up in stairwells and hallways to handle the flood of patients.

The researchers tracked and mapped dengue outbreak patterns in two large neighborhoods, encompassing hundreds of homes in Iquitos.

A city of 400,000 located deep in the Amazonian rain forest, Iquitos is essentially an island, only accessible by boat or plane. The city has high unemployment, and the housing is often substandard. Water is stored in open containers in crowded homes that lack air-conditioning, or even window screens. These factors make the homes havens for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the primary vector for the dengue virus. These mosquitoes feast almost exclusively on human blood, bite during the day, and have a limited flight range of about 100 meters.

To study how the dengue virus spreads through Iquitos, the researchers tracked and mapped outbreak patterns of two large neighborhoods, encompassing hundreds of homes, over several years. When a case of dengue was confirmed through a blood test, social workers would interview the patient, recording all the places the patient went during the 15 days leading up to the onset of fever. Mosquitos were collected from as many of these locations as possible and tested to determine if they carried the virus.

The data from interviews of 2,000 people was plotted over time and space using geographic information systems technology.

“People appear to be getting infected most often in homes, but not necessarily their own homes,” Vazquez-Prokopec said. “The main driver is people visiting friends and relatives in nearby homes.”

Interviews with dengue patients revealed that two-thirds of them had visited the same location.

“We suspect that the importance of human movement that we observed in Iquitos will hold in other populations and for other pathogens transmitted by the mosquitos that spread dengue,” Vazquez-Prokopec said. “The findings provide a different way for thinking about how a vector-borne pathogen may spread through a population, and have implications for better disease surveillance and control.”

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Four will face justice
in club fire in Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police in Brazil have arrested four people in connection with a nightclub fire that killed 231 people early Sunday.
Two club owners and two members of the band that was playing when the blaze broke out are in police custody.
The fire quickly swept through the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, in the far south of the country, trapping people who fled to the only unlocked exit.  Most of the victims died from smoke inhalation or were trampled.  More than 100 people were injured.
The club was filled with university students.  Survivors say a band member shot fireworks toward the ceiling, triggering the blaze that engulfed the building.
Family members have begun the grim task of burying their loved ones.

​​As the country mourns, Brazil canceled an event scheduled for Monday in the capital, Brasilia, marking the 500-day countdown to its hosting of the 2014 World Cup.
The disaster comes at a time Brazil is trying to show the rest of the world it is prepared to host next year's World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile early Sunday to return home.
Santa Maria is a major university city with a population of about 250,000, located near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay.
The fire is among the deadliest in a nightclub.  A blaze in China in 2000 killed 309 people and one in Argentina in 2004 killed 194.

Rios Montt to be tried
for genocide in Guatemala

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Guatemalan judge has ordered former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt be tried for the genocide of nearly 2,000 Mayans in the early 1980s.

This is the first time a Latin American court has charged a former president with mass murder and crimes against humanity.

Rios Montt has been under house arrest since he lost re-election to the Guatemalan congress last year. He was immune from prosecution as a member of congress.

The 86-year-old former dictator is accused of being behind a so-called scorched earth policy in 1982 and 1983, when Guatemalan forces marched through Mayan villages and slaughtered women, children, and unarmed men. Many of the victims were raped or tortured.

Rios Montt and other top Guatemalan officials believed the Mayans were helping leftist guerrillas who were trying to topple the right-wing government.

The United Nations says more than 200,000 people were killed during the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war, which finally ended in 1996.

Survey finds strong sentiment
for some gun restrictions

By the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School
of Public Health news service

The majority of Americans support a broad array of policies to reduce gun violence, according to a new national public opinion survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

These policies include: requiring universal background checks for all gun sales (supported by 89 percent); banning the sale of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons (69 percent); banning the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines (68 percent); and prohibiting high-risk individuals from having guns, including those convicted of a serious crime as a juvenile (83 percent) and those convicted of violating a domestic-violence restraining order (81 percent).

Americans also support a range of measures to strengthen oversight of gun dealers and various policies restricting gun access by persons with mental illness.

The national survey, which over-sampled gun owners and non-gun owners living in homes with guns to allow for more precise estimates of opinions among these groups, was fielded in January several weeks following the mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The majority of Americans support all but four of the 31 gun policies asked about in the survey. For many policies, there was little difference in support between gun owners and non-gun-owners.

“This research indicates high support among Americans, including gun owners in many cases, for a wide range of policies aimed at reducing gun violence,” said lead study author Colleen Barry, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “These data indicate broad consensus among the American public in support of a comprehensive approach to reducing the staggering toll of gun violence in the United States.”

At the same time, the researchers fielded a second national survey to assess Americans’ attitudes about mental illness.  This survey reveals ambivalent attitudes among the American public about mental illness.  Sixty-one percent of respondents favor greater spending on mental health screening and treatment as a strategy for reducing gun violence, and 58 percent said discrimination against people with mental illness is a serious problem. Yet, almost half of respondents thought people with serious mental illness are more dangerous than others, and two-thirds expressed unwillingness to have a person with a serious mental illness as a neighbor.  

“In light of our findings about Americans’ attitudes toward persons with mental illness, it is worth thinking carefully about how to implement effective gun-violence–prevention measures without exacerbating stigma or discouraging people from seeking treatment,” added Barry.

The results of both surveys are summarized in “After Newtown – Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness,” published online on Monday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Gun violence claims 31,000 U.S. lives each year in the U.S., and the rate of firearms homicides in America is 20 times higher than it is in other economically advanced nations.

Johns Hopkins researchers conducted this study using the survey research firm GfK Knowledge Networks. There were 2,703 respondents in the gun policy survey and 1,530 respondents in the mental illness survey.

“Not only are gun owners and non-gun-owners very much aligned in their support for proposals to strengthen U.S. gun laws,” said co-author Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, “but the majority of NRA members are also in favor of many of these policies.”

The survey found that 74 percent of NRA members support requiring universal background checks for all gun sales; 64 percent of NRA members support prohibiting people who have been convicted of two or more crimes involving alcohol or drugs within a 3-year period from having a gun, and 70 percent of NRA members want a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for a person convicted of knowingly selling a gun to someone who is not legally allowed to own one.

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Telephone regulator offers
a no-call list to customers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones is offering telephone customers to become a part of a do not call list which is designed to prevent unsolicited communications.

The service blocks persons who are calling from credit card companies, travel agencies and other businesses that dial citizens in hopes of making a sale over the phone.

The action is made legal under article 44 of the Ley General de Telecomunicaciones, which grants cellphone users the right to privacy.  Those who wish to take part can talk to their service provider and request to reject sales calls.  They will only receive calls from organizations to which they give permission, said the telecom regulator.

The system mainly guarantees protection between clients and businesses that are using the same operator.  In the case that the call is between different operators, companies that have the same agreement will take action to block the call, a release said.

Companies which violate the restriction to call will risk losing its phone service completely, the agency said.

If the fault falls on the phone operator for not taking the adequate measures to protect the privacy of the customer, the telecommunications agency can charge the operator a fine for misconduct of up to 1 percent of the company's gross income of the previous fiscal period.

This is accordance to article 68 of the telecommunications law, said telecommunications, the agency said.

Japanese roasters plan
to visit producers here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Japanese coffee roasters are scheduled to visit the Tarrazú area next week to learn about the production there.

The Asocafé Tarrazú said Monday that Japan has a growing coffee market even though the country is known for drinking tea.

Some 20 persons who are described as Japanese microroasters will arrive to sample local coffee.

They will visit Santa María de Dota Monday where local coffee growers will put the visitors to work for their first time in picking the beans. Later they will travel to other coffee growing areas nearby.

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Chili cookoff
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 20
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Bipartisan Senate group proposes
an amnesty for illegal immigrants

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A group of eight Democratic and Republican senators unveiled key elements Monday of a proposed compromise to reform the U.S. immigration system.  President Barack Obama will use an event in Nevada today to lay out his vision on the issue.
What the Senate lawmakers called tough but fair proposals would accomplish key objectives Obama and previous presidents have long supported, including a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
The plan specifically links eventual citizenship with future steps to enhance border security. Immigrants seeking a green card, the document needed to work legally, would have to satisfy all requirements, such as payment of taxes and any outstanding fines, and demonstrate their English-language ability.
Also included are steps Obama has advocated to boost the U.S. economy, by ending a talent drain in which the children of illegal immigrants who acquired an education and skills and their parents are forced to leave the United States.
Press Secretary Jay Carney welcomed the framework, but he declined to discuss legislative timetables or even say if Obama will propose a bill himself.  Carney said conditions appear right for progress.
“He believes that we are at a moment now where there seems to be support coalescing at a bipartisan level behind the very principles that he has long put forward," he said.
Carney said Obama's remarks today in Nevada, a state he won in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections with strong Hispanic and labor union support, will engage Americans in a conversation about the challenge ahead.
Democratic and Republican congressional aides said the Senate plan was deliberately released now to provide political separation from Obama and demonstrate that Congress is determined to act.
Obama spoke about immigration reform in his second inaugural address.
“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country," he said.
Congressional proposals include further strengthening of border security, steps to prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants and bolstering measures to prevent identity theft.
The Senate plan would give green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees at U.S. universities.  Agricultural workers would be treated differently from other undocumented immigrants.  Employers would be allowed to hire immigrants if citizens cannot be found.
Calling their framework a first step, senators said a tough fight lies ahead, but that they are confident immigration reform can be achieved despite the sort of opposition that has derailed previous efforts.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, said,  “We believe this will be the year Congress finally gets it done.  The politics on this issue have been turned upside down.  For the first time ever, there is more political risk in opposing immigration reform than supporting it.”
At the same press conference, Sen. John McCain, a Republican, said, “Now we will again attempt to commit the remaining resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current immigration system, and create a tough but fair path to citizenship for those here illegally.”
Though the bipartisan Senate group includes influential Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender, organizations that opposed past reform efforts are not persuaded.
Rosemary Jenks represents NumbersUSA, a group that says the Senate plan is a rehash of past proposals that would offer amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“The problem with amnesty is that if you send the message to the world that, if you can come to the United States illegally and manage to break the law for long enough, we will reward you with amnesty," she said. "So the message is, 'Come on in.'”
The chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith, also calls the new proposals an amnesty.

Senate proposal gets mixed reviews

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A legislative proposal out of Washington may soon give hope to millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States, while at the same time sparking renewed fears of a system run amok and warnings that years of inaction have made the problem only more complex.
The plan, being floated by a group of Democratic and Republican senators, calls for a tough but fair path to citizenship that helps attract and retain high-skilled workers while ensuring immigrants who apply for jobs are in the country legally.
​​Groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform are not impressed.
“To a certain extent this is déjà vu,” said Special Projects Coordinator Jack Martin. “It basically is a rehash of the push that was made in 2007 to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform that could pass. And it did not pass Congress.”
FAIR’s biggest objection is the plan’s path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, a provision it sees as nothing more than a general amnesty.
“The public basically opposes that because of the fact that they want people to come into our country legally, and they see the amnesty-type proposal as encouraging more illegal immigration,” Martin said.
Yet that tough but fair path to citizenship is exactly what many groups that work with undocumented workers have been clamoring for, and something they say has been sorely lacking from the country’s intense focus on immigration enforcement.
“It’s almost like the Wild West where workers are isolated and they have very little rights and protection,” said Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of the Caring Across Generations Campaign.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance represents nannies, housekeepers and other caregivers, not all of whom are in the U.S. legally. Poo says many have already been given the responsibility of caring for the country’s children and elderly — some of the most vulnerable members of society — although they themselves have nowhere to turn when victimized by crime or abuse.
Other groups that work with undocumented U.S. immigrants worry that many immigrants find themselves in a similar situation — unskilled laborers with few trusted places to turn to for help.
The Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, estimates of the 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2011, the majority are in jobs that currently require little education and little or no certification, like construction, food service or even light manufacturing.
But Pew Hispanic Center Senior Demographer Jeffrey Passel argues those numbers tell only part of the story.
“The stereotype is a young man who is here maybe working in construction or agriculture, and there are a lot of those people,” he said. “But 40 percent of the adult unauthorized immigrants are women. Those women and most of the adult men are in families. There’s about four and a half million U.S. citizen children who have parents who are unauthorized immigrants. So we’re talking largely about young working families.”
Pew estimates that between 40 and 50 percent of the adult unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. are parents of U.S.-citizen children. Two-thirds of them have been in the U.S. for 10 or more years.
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