Since the 1980s, the Brazilian government has offered amnesty to illegal immigrants in four different campaigns, benefiting tens of thousands of foreigners living in Brazil. The latest campaign began in July 2009 by presidential decree, and though it officially ended at the close of 2009, some cases are still pending.
Until now, 41,816 foreigners received amnesty through the 2009 amnesty program, though there are another 2,000 cases expected to be finished in early 2010. Though the large majority of immigrants live in São Paulo, other cases were based largely in Rio de Janeiro and Paraná. The breakdown by country/continent is the following:
While foreigners who received amnesty obtained the right to work and access health and education services, they are unable to vote or run for public office. They may opt to apply for citizenship after a probation period of residency in order to obtain these rights.
Officially, amnesty intends to cut down on illegal activity and human rights violations, particularly with Bolivians in São Paulo. But it seems to fit in with the Lula administration’s international policies, including ramped up diplomacy and establishing ties with other nations, but also establishing itself as a competitor with developed countries. By showing that it is a center for immigrants in the Western Hemisphere, particularly in South America, and more importantly, that it is supposedly a benevolent and welcoming country for immigrants, it helps Brazil’s international public image.