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Cablegate: Spain Legalizes Status of Nearly 691,000 Illegal Immgrants

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A

REF: (A) 04 MADRID 3701, (B) MADRID 517

1. (U) Summary: Spain concluded its three-month amnesty
program for illegal immigrants having collected more than
691,000 petitions nationwide. Officials at the Ministry of
Labor and Social Affairs stated they expect to approve 80% to
90% of the petitions. New immigrants earnings could generate up
to USD 2.8 billion (1.5 billion euros) for Spain's national
social security program in the coming year. However, some
immigrant and human right groups have pointed out that there may
be as many as one million illegal immigrants who did not qualify
for legal status under this recent amnesty program. Remaining
undocumented immigrants may still apply for legal status under
Spain's Foreign Alien Law, but they would face tougher work and
residency requirements. It is unlikely that unqualified
immigrant petitioners will be forced to leave the country given
that immigration authorities carried out only 26% of the 50,000
deportation orders they issued in 2004. Both the opposition
Popular Party and European Union have continued their criticisms
that the Zapatero government's immigration policy could attract
more illegal immigration and generate disagreements with EU
members on internal border security. End Summary.

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Amnesty Program Results

2. (U) The Zapatero government initiated discussions in October
2004 with immigrant groups and labor unions on granting legal
work and residence status to illegal immigrants by modifying
Spain's Foreign Aliens Law to provide for an amnesty program
(ref a). Officials stated that purpose of such a program
would be to reduce underground economic activity of
illegal immigrants working in Spain, and to reduce their
alienation from Spanish society and potential for social
conflict by providing them certain rights and access to social
services. By the end of 2004, the government had reached broad
agreement with immigrants and labor groups to implement an
the amnesty program for February to May 2005 (ref b).

3. (U) Spain ended its three-month immigration amnesty program
for illegal immigrants on May 7 with national immigration
offices processing over 59,000 new petitions on that day,
bringing the total number of petitions received nationwide to
more than 691,000. This total surpassed the number of petitions
the government accepted in its six previous amnesty programs
since 1991. According to government figures, 21% of the
petitioners in this year's program were Ecuadorians (135,783),
17% Romanians (108,494), 12% Moroccans (77,284), 9% Colombians
(54,677), among other nationals from Latin America, Eastern
Europe, and Africa. Madrid received 25% of all applications,
followed by Catalonia (20%), Valencia (15%), Andalusia (12%),
and Murcia (7%)--all are regions with large immigrant
populations. Petitioners were granted one year residence and
work authorizations if they provided proof that they had
established residence in Spain before August 7, 2004, had no
criminal record, and presented a Spanish employment contract for
a minimum of six months. However, most immigrant petitioners
will not be registered by their employers in social security
system and receive Spanish identity cards until July.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Spanish Minister Hails Amnesty Program's Success
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (U) Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jesus Caldera, who
appeared in the press personally greeting immigrant applicants
on the last day of the program, described the amnesty program a
success. He estimated that 80% to 90% of immigrant petitioners
would be granted legal status, and taking into account the
number of children and spouses of approved petitioners, nearly 1
million immigrants would be granted legal status in Spain.
Caldera emphasized that the amnesty program was "the greatest
effort to reduce underground economic activity in all of Europe
in the last forty years" because former illegal immigrants are
now registered with Spain's national social security system.
New immigrants would contribute up to USD 2.6 billion (1.5
billion euros) to Spain's pension system, Caldera noted.

5. (U) Minister Caldera also announced that the amnesty program
would be followed by a new Work Inspection Plan that would
involve 500,000 public inspections of Spanish businesses to
verify that immigrants had accurately reported their employment
status. The public inspections would focus on construction,
hotels, agriculture, trade and service sector businesses. In
addition, employers that are found employing illegal immigrants
after the amnesty period could be fined up to USD 80,000 (60,000
euros) for each illegal worker. Caldera stated that 1,700
employees from the Department of Spanish Labor Inspections would
complete employer investigations throughout the remainder of the
year. However, members of the Spanish Labor Inspectors Union
responded to Caldera, stating they do not have the capacity to
carry out such a massive, nation-wide investigation of all
employers of former illegal immigrants.

--------------------------------------------- -----------------
Tougher Legalization Requirements For Remaining Illegal Aliens
--------------------------------------------- -----------------

6. (U) Immigrant labor union and human rights groups have
argued that amnesty program left out nearly one million
undocumented immigrants who did not qualify for legal status.
The government has not raised the possibility of another amnesty
process. Caldera warned that illegal immigrants should leave
voluntarily or face deportation unless they qualify under other
provisions of Spain's Foreign Alien's Law. Under this law,
undocumented immigrants may qualify for legal status if they
reveal a Spanish employer hired them illegally, and prove that
they have worked a minimum of one year and lived in Spain for a
minimum of two years. They could also be eligible if they prove
social ties to Spain by presenting a work contract, three year's
residency, and family ties to Spain or an official "social
integration" document from a Spanish municipality.

7. (U) Illegal immigrants who still fail to qualify for legal
status are unlikely to be deported by Spanish authorities.
Spanish immigration authorities carried out only 26% of the
50,000 deportation orders they issued in 2004 because they could
not identify the county of origin of the undocumented
immigrants, or because Spain lacked repatriation agreements with
the illegal immigrant's country of origin when it could be
identified. In other cases, the law allows illegal immigrants
to avoid incarceration while their deportation orders are being
processed. This has given many illegal immigrants the
opportunity to evade immigration authorities and remain living
in Spain undetected.

--------------------------------------------- -------------------
Opposition Popular Party and the EU Criticize GOS Immigration
--------------------------------------------- -------------------

8. (U) Opposition Popular Party (PP) officials have continued
their attack on Goss's immigration policy with the conclusion of
the amnesty program. In his May 9 response to President
Zapatero's State of the Nation speech, Popular Party President
Mariano Rajoy attacked the government's immigration policy
calling it a "huge trumpet call" for new illegal immigrants into
Spain. In one notable barb, Rajoy said word of Spain's "famous"
immigration policy had by now "reached Pakistan." The only
missing elements were welcome centers in the countries of origin
and processing immigrants for legal status upon their arrival in
Spain. PP Secretary General Angel Acebes and Social Policy
Secretary Ana Pastor both issued press statements warning that

unless the government now works to integrate new immigrants into
Spanish society, Spain would experience "xenophobic behavior and
social confrontation." Pastor also added that the potential
pull factor created by the amnesty program Spain could create
confrontation with EU member states on common immigration policy
and border security issues. She noted that the amnesty program
had sent a message to EU that Spain was the only EU country that
was willing to "implement an immigration policy that has nothing
to do with the rest of the [EU member] countries."

9. (U) EU members voiced their concerns on Spain's immigration
policy during the May 12 G-5 Interior Ministers meeting between
Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the UK on regional immigration
and border security issues, according to press reports. The
French and Germany Interior Ministers criticized the Spanish
amnesty program for its potential pull effect of new illegal
immigrants into the European Union. (France, Germany, and the
Netherlands reportedly had raised similar concerns at the EU
level in February when Spain launched its amnesty program
without advising other member states.) Schilly stated
that "respect for the Spanish decision [to grant amnesty to
illegal immigrant workers in Spain], does not mean we will adopt

10. (U) Responding to French and German concerns, Spanish
Interior Minister Antonio Alonso stated that the recent amnesty
program would not affect labor markets in other European
countries and added that Spain would offer no new immigrant
amnesty programs. Recent press reports have indicated that
France, as well as other EU countries, may not recognize Spanish
immigrants who obtained work permits and social security under
amnesty program. The Spanish government has thus far not
reacted to possible action by its EU partners to deny work and
social benefits to new Spanish immigrants who choose to
immigrate to other EU countries. However, Spain did agree to
join the EU consensus on allowing member states to create random
police controls in the event of a possible immigration crisis
within the EU.


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