Colombia asks for legal status for its people already in US, seeks to integrate its own society of migrants
By Juan Carlos Villar, with contributions by Luis Palomeque and Laura Tamburrini.
Juan Carlos Villar,
The Latin American country of Colombia is set to become the first country in the world to be granted legal status with the United States while at the same time seeking to help its own migrants to integrate into a new society.
The Colombian Senate has passed a law that would change its constitution by granting Colombian citizens “permanent resident status” and that could also give them citizenship and a right to vote. The change would, in effect, make Colombia the first Latin American country to have its own citizens as permanent residents and to allow those with Colombian citizenship to vote in both Colombia and in the United States.
In an interview with the Guardian last week, President Juan Manuel Santos said that it was in the interests of both nations for Colombia to make its citizens citizens, citing the success of the Colombian people in achieving democracy and the need to move forward with it.
“The time has come now for us to open up a new window of opportunity for our country, which is why I have called for a bill to create a new constitution for our country,” said Santos in a media conference on Monday. “This is a key step in opening up the door to citizenship. At the same time, we are very well aware of the challenges on the horizon, with security issues at the forefront of all this, and we have called for this new window of opportunity to become open to those who have always been Colombia’s citizens.”
The bill had the backing of the country’s ruling party and had the backing of the president, who said that the citizens who made up the country’s population before the Civil War of the 1980s would be considered citizens and could thus be eligible to receive citizenship and enjoy certain rights that their ancestors could not.
However, some experts in the field told the Guardian that the bill could cause a backlash in Colombia, not only because of the controversy it could cause over the fate of the country’s many migrants, who make up more than 60% of Colombia’s population, but also