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Why More Ecuadorians are Moving to the US and Skipping Over Other Countries’ Hurdles

by Ryan Lee
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Kléver Ortega and Cristina Lema from Spring Valley, New York used to have a good life, but when COVID-19 arrived, it caused a lot of jobs in Ecuador to disappear. Kléver had been working as a house painter until then, but suddenly there was too little work to do anymore. The couple tried to set up two food stands hoping that would help make things better, but then the pandemic struck them too. As the country’s crime rate went up and they became more uncertain of their future, they decided to leave for the United States like many others and followed in the footsteps of their family and friends who had gone before them.

“People were talking about on the streets that people were leaving their businesses and houses because they weren’t making enough money to pay off their bills,” said Lema. “That’s when we knew that we had to leave too because our income was not enough for us to survive.”

Ecuador has been having a hard time lately because of earthquakes and has had the highest number of people leaving. They were known for low rates of crime including in South America’s cocaine region, but now violence is getting worse. Many Ecuadorians have been caught trying to come to the U.S. close to the Mexican border recently.

Since the start of 2021, President Biden’s new policies have made it harder for people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to cross the U.S. border illegally. Mexico also agrees with this policy and sends these migrants back if caught. People from Ecuadorian and other countries are allowed to stay in America while they try to get asylum Status because of how inconsistent U.S. immigration policies can be.(END)

This article is about how the United States is a popular place for people seeking safe homes. Unfortunately, travelling to this destination may be very risky. In February of this year, many Ecuadorian people died in a bus crash in Panama after entering from Colombia’s Darien Gap. And again this Monday, 39 immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and El Salvador lost their lives from an accidental fire at a border city called Ciudad Juarez.

The government wants to send people back to Mexico if they come across the border to America without permission and don’t qualify for any special exceptions. Although this plan is likely to meet resistance in court, it might be discouraging enough to stop Ecuadorians and other non-Mexicans from attempting to enter the US illegally.

In Ecuador, the economy worsened due to people going on strike against government decisions. As a result of this, more and more people started to do small crimes because they could not find other ways to get money. After some time, more serious crimes began happening too – including those connected to the cocaine trade.

Mr. Ortega said that because of all this violence, you could no longer go out with peace and tranquility in Ecuador. Last year his family left for Spring Valley in New York, where they now live peacefully.

Mexico’s reports on the migrants they have caught near the border showed for the first time in January that most of them are from Ecuador. Usually, these migrants come from Mexico, Venezuela, and Central America when they try to get to the US.

In November, U.S. officials stopped Ecuadorian people when they tried to enter the United States 12,000 times. This is three times more than in the past three months and 20 times more than what happened during the same time last year. These numbers come from a report made by Customs and Border Protection.

In the past, most Ecuadorian migrants moving to New York were single men. But now, more and more families with children are migrating there too. According to CBP figures, of all the people who came to New York in fiscal year 2020, around 60% were families with children — up from 15%. Diana Loja from Sleepy Hollow believes this is partly due to how easy it is to migrate right now.

She was driving through Sleepy Hollow as she talked to Big Big News. She mentioned that it used to take months for Ecuadorians to reach this village, but now it only takes a few days. Census data shows that half of the 10,000 people in Sleepy Hollow are from Latin America and most of them are from Ecuador. Research also suggests that this village has the highest concentration of Ecuadorians per capita compared to other places in the United States – about an hour drive away from downtown Manhattan.

Ortega and Lema live in an apartment on the ground floor of a building near Spring Valley. Last May, they went on a 26-day journey from Quito to New York. They both nearly drowned in a river in Nicaragua while using plastic bottles as rafts. Nowadays, Ortega does maintenance work for a pizza place and Lema helps with cooking food for a local restaurant.

Recently, Ecuadorians have noticed that more and more of their people are moving to New York. They’ve been able to see relatives, friends, and even neighbours migrating together.

Many Ecuadorian people like to travel, and they usually try to follow the rules that let them go other countries on the way to the U.S. Before 2021, almost 45,000 Ecuadorians went to Nicaragua because it didn’t make them show papers or anything. Until September 2021, it was simpler for Ecuadorians to reach Mexico.

Ortega and Lema spent $8,500 each to hire a smuggling network to help them travel. Unfortunately, they weren’t allowed in Nicaragua because they did not have the documents that were needed. Then, the smuggler flew them to Panama and they took buses to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and eventually crossed over into United States where they got onto a bus till New York. Lastly, Ortega and Lema plan on applying for asylum with their seven-year old daughter Sofia in Manhattan court this coming June.

Thousands of Ecuadorians are still heading to the U.S., despite recent changes in migration rules put in place by the U.S., according to Dr. Fredy Rivera, a security analyst from the School of Latin American Social Science in Quito. He said that although some of these people have stopped temporarily because of new laws, they will eventually keep on migrating once those laws are gone.

Ortega and their family plan to give their daughter a better life in the US, since they don’t think things will get any better in Ecuador. Ortega said that his dream is “For her to get an education here,” and that’s why they came to the US. Two reporters, Solano and Spagat, reported this story from Quito, Ecuador and San Diego, respectively.

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