Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ecuador: An Unlikely Battleground to Secure America's Southern Border

Mariscal Sucre International Airport
The South American country of Ecuador can be described as many things: a tourist mecca for its Galapagos Islands, the country that harbored WikiLeaks founder and fugitive Julian Assange in its London embassy for seven years, and soul-keeper of the vanquished Inca civilization.
But an important battleground in America's war over illegal immigration to the U.S. southern border? The answer is a resounding "of course."
For decades, especially the last one, Ecuador and its Mariscal Sucre International Airport near the capital city of Quito have served as an international human smuggling paradise, a primary landing zone into the Western Hemisphere for untold thousands of U.S.-bound "extra-continental" and "special interest alien" immigrants flying in from all of the world's trouble spots. From the Quito launch pad, immigrants stepping off international passenger jets from China, Africa, and the Middle East then set off on ground journeys to next-door Colombia, into Central America through the Darien Gap, north to Mexico, and finally to the U.S. border for illegal entries and asylum claims.
In 2008, Ecuador supercharged itself as a human smuggling paradise when leftist President Rafael Correa, declaring an end to "this 20th Century invention of passports and visas" and deifying the "principle of universal citizenship", decided to unilaterally lift all visa requirements for anyone in the world to enter Ecuador without permission. Long-haul smugglers naturally flooded Ecuador with Iraqis, Pakistanis, Syrians, Iranians, Chinese, Indians, Africans, and many others on their way to America.
That was still the state of things when I reported in a July 1 post that tens of thousands of these kinds of immigrants, emboldened by seeing from afar the total breakdown of U.S. border controls, were surging through this route, often via Ecuador, to exploit the advantage. Later, in an encampment of extra-continental migrants at Acuna, Mexico, just last month, across from Del Rio, Texas, I interviewed Congolese and Cameroonian migrants who told me they and everyone else they knew from their countries currently waiting to cross the border had first flown into Ecuador.
Someone in President Donald Trump's administration must have realized that Ecuador, certainly as much as Mexico and other countries Trump emissaries have been visiting lately, was an important piece of the policy puzzle to end the border crisis without help from the divided Congress. Because, although there is no public reporting of Trump administration pressure, Ecuador's ministry of foreign affairs recently announced with no fanfare that it has increased the number of countries whose citizens will now need a "special visa" to enter the country going forward. The government emphasized that citizens from more than 90 percent of the world's countries can still enter with only their passports.
But no longer from these 11 countries: Angola, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iraq, Libya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Sri Lanka.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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