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Ecuadorian Immigrants Asking Assistance from U.S. Government in Wake of Deadly Earthquake

quakeEcuadorian Immigrants are seeking assistance from the Obama administration, asking that undocumented Ecuadorian immigrants be allowed to stay and work in the United States as the as the South American nation tries to get back on its feet after suffering a devastating magnitude-7.8 earthquake. In Los Angeles, Ecuadorian activists recently took to the streets to voice their support to the efforts of Democrat legislators, who are calling for immigration relief for affected Ecuadorians in the wake of the April 16 earthquake that took the lives of more than 650 people, leaving countless more injured and homeless.

U.S. Policy: Temporary Protection for Disaster Victims

It’s a little known fact that the United States sometimes grants “temporary protected status” to citizens of countries affected by war and natural disasters, such as Nepal during the 2015 earthquake, and the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

The program features the following rules:

  • Immigrants can acquire temporary work permits
  • They may NOT apply for green cards
  • They are NOT allowed to bring relatives to the United States

So far, the program has allowed more than 300,000 immigrants from nations that include Somalia, Nicaragua, and Haiti to received protected status, this according to estimates by the United States government.

Activists and Lawmakers Calling for Addition of Ecuador

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and immigrants from New York and New Jersey have urged the government to include Ecuador in the lost of select countries that qualify for the immigration program, given how last month’s earthquake decimated entire towns along the country’s Pacific coast. A coalition of 32 Democrat lawmakers has also echoed the call, signing a petition urging the White House to make the change. Activists have also called on President Rafael Correa of Ecuador to formally request eligibility for Ecuadorian immigrants to the United States.

According to Wilfredo Triviño-Pérez, one of the activists calling for Ecuador’s inclusion in the program, remittances play a vital role in the efforts to rebuild Ecuador. Without remittances from Ecuadorian immigrants in the United States  documented or undocumented — the road to rebuilding will be difficult, he said.

Critics: TPS Not Temporary

Critics of the “temporary protection status” program, however, point out the program isn’t temporary, as it can be renewed as many times as applicants want, referring to how many Salvadorans granted with the privilege in 2001 still have it.

According to Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit that advocates immigration reduction, the problem with the TPS program is that presidents are allowed to renew it on their own, leading to its indefinite renewal for all eligible immigrants. As a result, he says, undocumented immigrants from countries affected by earthquakes and disasters receive immigrant protection in a manner akin to winning the lottery.

The U.S. government has been keeping an eye on the recovery efforts in Ecuador and has offered to fast-track immigration applications from those affected by the disaster.

To learn more about TPS and your eligibility for the program, talk to the legal team of Lyttle Law Firm. Call us today at (512) 215-5225.