There is a new path to the United States for Ecuadorians. The Joe Biden administration on Wednesday announced a program that benefits citizens from one of the countries that has experienced the highest rates of emigration to the U.S. in recent months. The Department of Homeland Security announced a family reunification parole process that facilitates legal immigration for family members of Ecuadorians who are permanently established in the United States. The aim is to stop the pace of irregular crossings, which in 2023 reached the highest levels in four years.
“Establishing this process for certain Ecuadorian nationals will ensure more families can access lawful pathways rather than placing themselves at the mercy of smugglers to make the dangerous journey,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, on Wednesday. “Those who do not avail themselves of family reunification parole or other lawful, safe, and orderly pathways and attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will continue to face tough consequences.”
Mayorkas and the Biden administration have come under fire after recently announcing that they had given the green light to continue building Donald Trump’s wall along the border with Mexico.
Beneficiaries of the new program could include certain children and siblings of U.S. citizens and certain spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. Individuals allowed into U.S. territory under this process will be considered for parole for up to three years and will be eligible to request employment authorization while they wait for their immigrant visa to become available. When their immigrant visa becomes available, they may apply to become a lawful permanent resident, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
The Biden administration has built tailored programs for immigrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, Colombia and Central American countries. But this is the first time that the executive has made one aimed at the nationals of Ecuador, a country that has recently suffered a security crisis made worse by the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.
In the first 11 months of fiscal year 2023, which began in October 2022, border authorities detained nearly 99,000 Ecuadorians, according to Customs and Border Control. This is up 312% from fiscal year 2022.
In January 2023, Ecuadorians were the main group of detained irregular immigrants. The flow began to increase in late 2022. Between October and December of last year, some 35,500 Ecuadorians made the journey north, according to immigration authorities. In November alone, 12,000 arrests were made, a figure almost 20 times higher than in the same period of 2021.
Most of those Ecuadorians flew to Nicaragua or Mexico, countries that did not request special visas from citizens of that country. Mexican authorities, however, imposed a special visa in September 2021 in a decision that sought to slow the pace. The year 2021 ended with 97,000 arrests of Ecuadorians who crossed the border.
President Biden received the Ecuadorian president, Guillermo Lasso, at the White House last December. Biden took advantage of the meeting to announce a $13.5 million investment in development funds and agreed on greater cooperation on matters of security and against drug trafficking gangs that have triggered several episodes of violence in local prisons, leading to more than 400 victims.
At that meeting, Lasso spoke about regional commitments to achieve an orderly migration. The president was one of the leaders who signed the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. Ecuador has granted Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan citizens, so that they will not be deported. The United States, on the other hand, has opened immigrant processing centers in Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala and there were negotiations with Quito to establish one more in Ecuador, but it did not materialize.
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