Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS, October 18, 2023
The Biden administration will be opening a new legal immigration pathway for certain immigrants from Ecuador in a bid to dissuade people in the South American nation from trekking to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to internal federal government documents obtained by CBS News.
The administration is slated to announce Wednesday a family reunification program that will allow eligible Ecuadorians to fly to the U.S. and apply for temporary work permits if their U.S.-based relatives have sponsored them for an immigrant visa, the Department of Homeland Security documents show.
DHS officials hope the policy will “provide an alternative to dangerous irregular migration,” according to the documents.
The initiative will be the latest Biden administration attempt to reduce illegal border crossings, which soared toin September, by offering would-be migrants expedited pathways to enter the U.S. legally. Over the past two years, officials have revived or created similar family reunification programs for immigrants from Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras.
The program will also mark the first time the administration creates a program specifically for Ecuadorians, who have journeyed to the U.S. southern border in record numbers over the past year. In the first 11 months of fiscal year 2023, Border Patrol apprehended nearly 99,000 Ecuadorians who entered the U.S. without authorization, a 312% spike from fiscal year 2022 and an annual record, federal data show.
In 2021, when there was another spike in Ecuadorian arrivals along the U.S. border, most migrants from Ecuador were flying into Mexico before entering the U.S. illegally. But after Mexico ended visa-free travel for Ecuadorians later that year, more of them have sought to reach the U.S. by crossing Panama’s once-impenetrable Darién Gap on foot. Nearly 50,000 Ecuadorian migrants have crossed the Darién jungle in 2023 alone, the second-highest tally of any nationality, according to Panamanian government data.
The Biden administration has used the parole authority at an unprecedented scale as part of its effort to divert migration away from the U.S. southern border.