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Massive migrations

In Ecuador, people talk about “waves” of migration to describe periods when the number of people who migrated was greater. The first of these great migrations – and the most unknown to the generations of the last thirty years – was the one that began in the 1960s. Read also : The Under Secretary of the United States (US) has discussed Security priorities with the Prime Minister of Nigeria. According to the researchers who studied the country’s migration patterns, the Ecuadorian population began to migrate to the United States when the sale of the Panama Hat, which was made in Austro, fell.

The second “wave”, which is the most clearly visible in the country, began in the mid-1990s and lasted until the beginning of the 21st century. According to a study by the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), 18,000 people left Ecuador in 1996 and did not return in 2001; in 1998 the number increased to 34,000, and by 2000 it was 107,000.

Unlike many of the first migrations where Austro-Hungarians were already expelled in search of a safe income in the United States, the second period of migration spread to Ecuador in the second half of the 1990s and the first year of the 21st century. The reasons: political instability – two presidents were overthrown in 1997 and 2000 – and, again, economic decline. In 1999, unemployment in Ecuador reached 15.1%, and in 2000 Ecuador’s poverty rate reached 71%, according to data from the Central Bank of Ecuador.

The second peak of immigration will begin on January 9, 2000, the day Ecuador accepted the dollar as its official currency. For many, that marked an economic collapse. About 560,000 people left Ecuador that year, the highest number on record.

In 2020 and 2021, not only Covid-19 was discussed in Ecuador. By the middle of the first year of the epidemic, William Murillo, former director of the National Secretariat for Migrants (SENAMI) and founder of 1800Migrante, a legal consulting company that provides advice to migrants from Ecuador, warned of a new mass migration.

“One of our biggest concerns is that, after looking at the difficult economic situation in Ecuador at the moment, we could have a new wave of immigration to the United States and cause an increase in dead and missing,” Murillo said in a June 11, 2020, statement.

Although he saw the change in immigration practices as he followed up on cases of missing persons, deaths and detentions of Ecuadoreans at the US-Mexico border, this is the third major immigration development since the 2018. On November 29 of that year, the Mexican. the government announced that citizens of Ecuador no longer need a visa to enter the country. To comply with the requirements to enter Mexico, Ecuadorian citizens only need to show that they have hotel and return plane tickets. That’s when the numbers started to grow.

In 2019, the records of the Ministry of Ecuador of the Government showed that 119,268 Ecuadorians left for Mexico, but only 102,77 returned; that is, at least 16,489 Ecuadorians lived outside the country. In 2020, during the pandemic, 53,802 Ecuadorians traveled to Mexico, but only 39,173 returned to Ecuador, a balance of 14,629. In 2021, the numbers were even higher: 127,134 Ecuadorians went to Mexico, and only 57,784 returned. The 69,350 people who have not returned are mostly from the provinces of Azuay and Cañar. Back then, the Austro-Ecuadorian villages and towns went on a journey to the United States.

The third wave of immigration was confirmed by the number of Ecuadorians detained at the US-Mexico border. According to US Customs and Border Protection data, detentions in 2021 increased from 5,579 in March to 17,611 in August. Information from the Mexican authorities indicates that from 2019 to July 2022, a total of 646 Ecuadorians were detained in Chihuahua, 97 percent of them in 2021 and the first seven months of 2022. The majority the arrest was registered in the region of Ciudad Juárez which is the capital of 2022. there is the submission of the National Institute of Migration.

The fact that there is a growing number of immigrants from Ecuador to the United States is no longer a phenomenon. Interestingly, most of them have disappeared.

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$17,000 to disappear

Claudio Javier Ramón Ordóñez, a 37-year-old farmer and miner, abandoned his tools and left his four children in the middle of 2021 to travel to the United States through Mexico. On the same subject : Department Press Release – September 15, 2022 – US Department of State. At the end of July 2021, his family received a message that Claudio had been kidnapped in Ciudad Juárez.

Claudio was born in Dandan, a rural village in the province of Azuay. It is surrounded by mountains, close to the desert, dusty, and scorched by a strong sun. The only way to get there is on unpaved roads. There is very little shade and few trees. Water is scarce, so the productivity of agricultural activities has decreased.

The family of Ramón Ordóñez settled in this difficult region 38 years ago. Their seven children grew up. They all worked in the fields and over time the children left school to grow onions, tomatoes and other crops.

By the early 2000s, poverty, a common condition in families in this region, weakened the young children of the family. Neighbors and family members immigrated to the United States and stories of success and how much money one could make were talked about everywhere. That convinced Claudio’s sister, whom we will call Miriam, to go to the United States at the age of 17. He has not returned since then.

Claudio has different plans. He wanted to work in the fields, raise a family and live near his parents. When he was 17 years old, he moved to a village where water was not a problem and he could devote himself to cultivating the land. Claudio fell in love and had his first daughter, who is now 16 years old, although he later separated from his mother. Then he met the mother of his second son, now 12 years old, from whom he divorced two years later. The third relationship gave him stability and with his wife Paola he had two more children, a boy and a girl who are 10 and 8 years old.

Claudio refused many times to follow the example of his sister Miriam, but due to the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Paola decided to travel. The week his wife left, Claudio visited his parents and told them that he was going to join Paola in the United States as soon as he arrived. His mother, Mercedes Ordóñez, tried to deceive him.

“Come and live here, with us. You can stay at your sister’s house,” Mercedes told him. But Claudio was determined. He watched over the years as his sister sent money for the family. In the United States he did not suffer the harsh demands of daily life that his family faced in Dandan.

“He left with the belief of working to take care of his children’s education,” said Mercedes.

The father and mother accompanied Claudio to the coyote and agreed to the trip for $17,000, with the condition that he should not cross the desert. In the afternoon they gave the coyote $5,000. The second payment was due when Claudio arrived in Mexico, and the final payment was due when he crossed the border. The deal was struck. Claudio’s coyote was said to arrive in 8 to 12 days. In July 2021, after receiving his parents’ blessing, Claudio left. He left his young children in the care of his wife’s mother, as arranged by Paola.

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Numbers that don’t add up, migration that doesn’t stop

In Ecuador, everyone knows the economic impact of remittances sent by Ecuadorians working in the United States. Everyone knows how much money coyoteros make from smuggling immigrants. The records on the planes and people in Ecuador are available for anyone to consult them. But what is not known is the true number of missing Ecuadorians at the US-Mexico border, because there is no system to confirm all the cases of the disappeared. Even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Migration (MREMH), which is responsible for helping the families of missing migrants, has conflicting information.

For this report, the number of missing migrants at the US-Mexico border was requested, but the MREMH only shared data starting from 2019. To obtain data before that year, they recommended that contact the Office of the Attorney General of Chihuahua. On the same subject : Sen. Cruz introduces the SEVER Act to ban Iranian President Raisi from entering the United States. The attorney general’s office responded that the information does not appear in the system because “it is not the responsibility of the Attorney General’s Office to keep the statistics of missing Ecuadorian immigrants up the way in the United States, due to the fact that this power is resting. and MREMH.”

Interestingly, the local office of MREMH serving the Ecuadorian Austro has data since 2014, but the data is different from the data used by MREMH. For example, in 2021, the local office received reports of 66 disappearances, of which 41 were resolved, while the general records of the MREMH recorded 29 cases of which 12 were resolved.

The difference is also reflected in the MREMH’s 2021 accountability report, and the data shared by the agency for this report. According to the MREMH report, 37 missing Ecuadorians were registered at the US-Mexico border. Of that number, 17 are listed as resolved. According to the MREMH data shared for this report, in 2021 there were 29 people missing and only 12 found. How can the absence of immigrants from Ecuador be taken seriously if there are no accurate records in the Ministry responsible for the care of those who left Ecuador?

“Registration is a problem,” explained Cristian Zhimnay, director of the Research Group on Population and Sustainable Local Development (PYDLOS) at the University of Cuenca, the most prominent public institution in the Ecuadorian Austro. “There are no statistics, and I believe that the government reduced their efforts to control or encourage them to return or leave [the United States]. They just let it go. It’s like let’s see what happens.”

The PYDLOS has indicated the large flow of Ecuadorian citizens to the United States with the help of non-profit organizations and foundations that have done work that should be led by the government. An example of this is in the Migration Governance Indicators (IGM) report for Ecuador, published by the International Organization for Migration in 2021.

According to the IGM, Ecuador “does not have a consistent and organized system of interaction for the creation and evaluation of public policies on issues of interest to Ecuadorian immigrants,” and it is noted that the number of Ecuadorians who emigrated left for Mexico and did not return until the first half of 2021, representing “an emergency immigration.”

While Ecuador was registering the departure of remittances from the United States, Mexico decided on August 20, 2021, to ask Ecuador again for a visa. Initially, the measure was to start from September 4, 2021, until March 4, 2022, but the Mexican government decided to extend the measure indefinitely. This restriction greatly reduced the number of trips from Ecuador to Mexico. From 22,982 registered in August 2021, the number fell in September to 6,518. In December it fell again to 2,269. When free travel in Mexico to Ecuador was closed, the routes used by coyotes more than thirty years ago returned – direct travel to Central America, overland travel, and crossing Mexico to the northern border. It’s more expensive, up to $20,000 for a single trip, but at least it’s more dangerous.

On April 2, 2022, two brothers from Cuenca and a young man from Azogues died in a car accident in Guatemala while trying to reach the U.S.-Mexico border.

On August 12, a van carrying travelers overturned in Veracruz. Three Ecuadorian women, including a 1-year-old girl, died, while a 14-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy, and a 23-year-old girl—people all from the same family from Cuenca—were there. serious injury.

While Ecuador was registering immigration records and remittances from the United States, on August 20, 2021, Mexico decided to ask Ecuadorians for a visa again. Initially, the measure was to begin from September 4, 2021, until March 4, 2022, but the Mexican government decided to extend the measure indefinitely. This restriction significantly reduced the number of emigration from Ecuador to that country: from 22,982 registered in August 2021, in September the number was 6,518, and in December it fell to 2,269. But when free transportation was shut down, the routes that coyotes sought more than thirty years ago returned: direct travel to Central America, along the land, and crossing Mexico to reach the northern border. It’s more expensive, up to $20,000 for a single trip, but much more risky.

If Claudio is just a number in the authorities, for the family of Ramón Ordóñez the last year is a wound that cannot heal.

One day after leaving Cuenca in July 2021, Claudio called his sister, telling her that he was already in a hotel in Mexico and was doing well. The family agreed to make the second payment, about $4,000. Claudio continued to call and his first attempt to cross was stopped by border agents. On July 26, he said he would make a second attempt. But the day passed without a word and Mercedes sensed that something was wrong. He was right. Claudio was kidnapped.

On July 27, a picture flashed on Miriam’s cell phone. In the picture, Claudio is sitting on what appears to be a bed, tied at the feet with a thin white rope. Fear was fixed on his face. His captors demanded $15,000 for his ransom. Miriam and other family members were able to collect $12,000 and deposit it in a bank account. The robbers told him that if he deposited the remaining money, they would release his “body,” meaning the brother. That was the last time the thieves answered the phone. Mercedes’ children hid the truth from her as long as they could. He found out a month later.

The Mercedes show ranges from melancholy to resignation which is still trying to find. His voice, sometimes slow and soft, is marked by the suffering of Claudio the uncertainty of the fate, and the suffering of his second son, who is the closest to his grandparents and cannot accept the thought of his father’s death. By 2022, 17 more families reported missing a family member on the travel route. Some may ask God to let them know if someone in their family is alive or not, as Mercedes did when she lit a candle for her son and reserved a place for him in the dining table. He just wants to know if Claudio is alive or dead so he can close this painful chapter in his life.

This study jointly by El Mercurio in Ecuador and La Verdad Juárez was produced with the support of InquireFirst.

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