Nicaraguans and Colombians
According to unofficial statistics, more than 200,000 Nicaraguan immigrants are living in Costa Rica. And as long as an impoverished nation lives alongside a prosperous one as in this case, the latter will always have this problem of new arrivals. If it's difficult for the American boundary patrols to control the influx of Mexican wetbacks into the United States, it's easy to realize how difficult it is to control people from crossing a long and thick jungle boundary such as the one existing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
But the influx of Nicaraguans is not all bad. It has helped solve serious labour shortages in harvesting agricultural crops as coffee, sugar cane, oranges and bananas, as well as in the construction business. Many Nicaraguan women work as maids in homes. Those are jobs not all Costa Ricans are willing to do. This large influx, though, has caused several problems such as taxing to the limit the government health, social and educational services which are offered free.
In the northern part of Costa Rica, it's estimated that 80 per cent of new births in hospitals are from Nicaraguan women, many who cross the boundary only to use government obstetric services at no cost and then return to their country. A few years ago the Costa Rican Constitutional Court declared that nobody, even immigrants, could be deprived of receiving the same free government emergency services that Costa Ricans enjoy.
According to historian Ivan Molina, there existed racial prejudice and discrimination throughout colonial days, and it was even officially recognized after the end of the 19th Century. But little by little it subsided and practically disappeared. Today some very isolated cases of xenophobia are noticeable among certain Ticos toward Nicaraguans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and Peruvians because of bad experiences with them. But this feeling is not generalized, and except for those few cases, it can be said that in general no racial discrimination exists today in the country.
Now in the beginning years of the 21st Century, the influx of Colombians has increased considerably because of the expanded guerrilla warfare, kidnappings and growing unemployment in that country. Many sell their principal belongings and migrate to Costa Rica in search of peace and better opportunities. Some are professionals and many are well educated. These Colombians and immigrants of other Central and South American countries also receive the same social benefits as do Costa Ricans provided they have the required documents in order.