Majority whip links crime with immigration
The head of the Victory Front (FpV) caucus in the Senate Miguel Ángel Pichetto yesterday pointed the finger at immigrants, a move that is not only at odds with the legislation passed by the national government and sponsored by Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo but also appeared to be a conservative turn for a political movement that has long prided itself in inclusiveness.
“We’re witnessing new modes of crime — Albanians and Eastern Europeans are now linked to drug-trafficking,” Pichetto told Radio Vorterix yesterday. “And then there’s Chinese crime. The Chinese entered (the country) in the nineties — and now the Senegalese. Where are they? I don’t see them in construction sites. I see them selling counterfeit goods. It’s wonderful.”
Pichetto’s remarks came one day after he tried to explain in Congress why the government was having difficulties fighting crime — and almost a week after National Penitentiary solicitor general Francisco Mugnolo said that 20 percent of inmates in Argentine prisons are foreign-born.
But his radio rant against immigrants may have earned him an enemy within the government, as his calls to reform the country’s deportation policies were read as a direct attack to the Immigration Law backed by Randazzo.
The head of Migrations Martín Arias Duval, was unavailable for comment, but his spokesman told the Herald that remarks by the House majority whip could be read as criticism of the current law.
“Maybe other people share this view (on Pichetto’s remarks), too,” the source added.
During yesterday’s radio interview, Pichetto went on to say that the country needed to debate the possibility that immigrants who “repeatedly commit crimes” be deported, “as in any other serious country.”
“You see this Senegalese manteros (street peddlers) entering as refugees and taking part in semi-criminal organizations selling counterfeit things, and nobody’s doing anything about it. Why are these characters entering as refugees if Senegal’s not at war?” Pichetto asked. “How are dangerous Colombian guys, convicted in their country of origin, able to enter with fake documents and stay in the country?”
Security Secretary Sergio Berni, in turn, also took aim at judges and said sarcastically that the country would be “better off” by “replacing them with vending machines.”
“The main pillar of the war on crime is Justice,” Berni said, before complaining about problems of “interpretation” shown by some magistrates.
“Each one understands a different thing,” the Security secretary said. “Some are doing what’s more convenient for them, while others don’t even bother.”
Breaking a consensus
In 2010, Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri blamed crime and the growth of shanty towns on uncontrolled immigration. One year later, former president Eduardo Duhalde, a dissident Peronist and former presidential candidate, said the criminal issue was linked to “people entering Argentine territory without controls.”
But in general, immigration is not regarded as a problem.
According to the World Policy Institute, a non-partisan NGO, “Argentina’s current law treats immigration as a human right and consequently prioritizes the reunification of families, facilitates the ability of immigrants to obtain residency, and allows free access to health care and education.” Moreover, the organization says, “all residents of neighbouring countries are eligible for residency, regardless of whether or not they have a job.”