Growth of Ecuadorian Immigration in New York, USA

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Introduction

The geographical location of Ecuador has been responsible for flight of its citizens to nearby countries, including USA, while this small nation has accepted many immigrants from countries such as Columbia. While around 10 to 15 percent of Ecuadorians live outside their country at present, the wave of migration started during 1980s. As majority of such immigrants went to USA, many Ecuadorians settled in Italy and Spain. The wave of this migration has stopped since late 2000s, as President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, resumed office in the year 2007. The president encouraged development of many programs meant to lure the diaspora back to Ecuador. The economic crisis in Spain also aided to such return immigration that has gained pace during last decade. In addition, Ecuador has witnessed substantial inflow of population from nearby countries such as Peru and Columbia.

The floods in Ecuador as well as natural disasters such as earthquakes have been the key reason for Ecuadorians to migrate to other countries. In addition, the land reforms carried out in the country during 1960s left landowners without any viable economic means to live their usual lifestyle in Ecuador, while such reforms have been beneficial for the society as it gave wide powers and ownership to small peasants. 

The fascination about American lifestyle and easy life have tempted many citizens from Latino and Hispanic regions to migrate to the United States. However, the life has been very hard for the people who arrived as illegal immigrants in U.S.A., as they had to strive hard for their survival, doing petty jobs such as cleaning residential and commercial properties, working illegally in restaurants and getting exploited at the hands of American employers who used them for all kinds of menial jobs. This research paper sums up, briefly, about the conditions of Ecuadorians in the United States of America, with inputs from varied sources including published articles and media reports. 

Emigration pattern

The wave of emigration from Ecuador to USA started in mid 1970s, as people of Canara and Cuenca began migrating to USA using clandestine migration routes, going through Central America and then Mexico to reach USA. Due to collapse of oil prices and severe economic crisis in Ecuador, during 1990s, along with country’s political instability and financial mismanagement, the unemployment rate in this country rose to 15 percent while poverty rate went up to 56 percent. Accordingly, the nationals of Ecuador looked for greener pastures as their new habitats.

The outflow of immigrants to other countries gained pace during 1996 to 2008. The figure ‘1’ given below displays a table that gives an idea of Ecuadorian population staying in different countries, as per the U.S census bureau, 2011-13. (Jokish, 2014)

Table 1. Number of Ecuadorians Overseas in Favored Destinations

Sources: United States: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011-13 American Community Survey; Spain: Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, Municipality Survey; Italy: Istituto Nazionale di Statistica; Venezuela: Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, 2011 Census; Chile and Colombia: International Organization for Migration, Panorama Migratorio de América del Sur, 2012.

Figure ‘1’, “Ecuadorians Overseas”, (Source: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/ecuador-mass-emigration-return-migration)

Ecuadorians in USA

While most Ecuadorians arrived in USA as refugees, many had tourist visas and they started working in hotels and restaurants with petty jobs. Many of such illegal immigrants got permanent residency and citizenship in USA, subsequent to passage of Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. This provided a golden opportunity to many illegal Ecuadorians to pursue their American dream, as these young immigrants were able to better their financial prospects while acquiring American styles related to fashion, attitude and speech. The table given in figure’2’ below highlights the profile of Ecuadorian immigrants who obtained legal status for permanent residency in USA, as per the immigration statistics of 2008, provided by Department of Homeland Security, USA.

Country of origin Ecuador
Primary language Spanish
Primary regions of U.S. settlement New York State
Earliest significant arrivals 1970
Peak immigration period 1990-present
Twenty-first century legal residents* 96,571 (10,730 per year)

Figure ‘2’, “Legal Residents in U.S.A.”, (Source: http://immigrationtounitedstates.org/471-ecuadorian-immigrants.html)

According to these statistics, the outflow of Ecuadorians kept increasing steadily, from 1930s to 2000-2008. Most of the Ecuadorian illegals staying currently in USA are poor peasants and factory workers who have no legal papers, yet helping in growth of New York economy by doing manual work in garment factories and restaurants. As majority of such workers are undocumented, they have no job security. (Neumann)

The land reforms that took place in Ecuador during mid 1990s along with the changes made to United States Immigration laws in 1965 caused many Ecuadorians migrating to USA. As Ecuador passed the “Land Reforms, Idle Lands and Settlement Act” in 1964, the poor peasants of this country got an opportunity to better their living standards. However, this Act brought instability in the middle and upper classes of the society as land-owners were deprived of their possessions. Accordingly, it was the key reason for first phase of Ecuadorian migration to USA. (Mumford, nd)

Hatred against Ecuadorians in New York areas

While people from Ecuador constitute around fourth-largest Latino population in New York and surrounding areas, the hate crimes targeting Ecuadorians have increased with passage of time. As reported in Huffington post news article, the murder of an Ecuadorian native in 1994 in Brooklyn area did not result in a denouncement by any of the Hispanic groups residing in the area at that time. This action resulted in formation of a forum against hatred by a group of Ecuadorian residents, as Ecuadorian International Alliance that has Walter Sinche as executive director. Sinche, who migrated to USA in 1988, was motivated to become an activist in this alliance after the above-reported murder. Sinche subsequently formed a similar alliance in Queens area during 2005, with the aim to raise awareness of the prevalent racism against Ecuadorians in New York and surrounding areas. The alliance efforts have resulted in safe reporting of hate crimes and open discussions on racial intolerance in and around New York city.

The activities of this alliance have broadened as it received grants from Union Square Awards, while part of these funds was utilized in opening a community center in Corona, Queens. The center has provided an opportunity for all Ecuadorians and Latin Americans to discuss issues related to deportation, domestic violence and public education. The community activities have also resulted in hosting weekly seminars and “Walks for Dignity and Tolerance” with an aim to raise awareness about sufferings of immigrants, who face deportation charges, in the form of violation to their human rights. The Huffington post cites Sinche referring to several violations suffered by such immigrants in the hands of American private entrepreneurs and the American government. According to Sinche, these illegals are shackled like hard criminals while they share prison categories similar to those shared by hard-core criminals and terrorists. In addition, Sinche says, these immigrants are kept in prisons longer than warranted durations, while they do not receive any normal medical attention except getting heavy medication to prevent them from self-abuse. (Noriega)

Another victim to violence was an Ecuadorian, Marcelo Lucero, who succumbed to his injuries after many white American teenagers attacked him in 2008, a few days after Barack Obama took oath as American President. Years later, President Donald Trump had to cancel a fund-raising event during his election campaign in Long Island, to show his support against hate crime. (Walters, 2016)

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Several obstacles for Hispanics

According to an article published in New York Times, Ecuadorians faced many obstacles in their struggle to live the American dream. The article informs about condition of several immigrants coming from Ecuador and other South American countries during 1990s. The article highlights the views of many such immigrants facing discrimination in New York area. As most of the Ecuadorian immigrants settled in Ossining village in New York area along the Hudson river, many non-English speaking immigrants find it difficult to tolerate the discrimination at the hands of English speaking Americans. However, the same article, quoting 1990 census figures, informs that the population of non-whites in this village grew by almost 44 percent while the population of whites grew by only 2 percent during 1980 to 1990.  In addition, the Hispanic population grew by almost 113 percent during the same period. Most of these were Ecuadorians.

The article provides an insight about the characteristics of Ecuadorians’ life style as they pursue their dreams of settling down in USA. The paper lists landscaping and construction work as two types of occupation that the new immigrants from Ecuador pursue, after arriving from their native place. As many of such immigrants work hard to get the permanent residency in USA, the green card is not easily available to all of them even after filing their application by any of the blood relations who is legal resident of the country. 

The daily life for Ecuadorian immigrants is not easy as English-speaking Americans often use physical violence against them. The paper also signifies the fact that most of these illegals do not opt for reporting any crime against them and they hesitate to go to hospital for emergency treatment after being hit in such hatred violence. Most of these illegals are afraid that apart from hospitals refusing to treat them, they might be reported and deported as well. However, the Director of “Emergency Medicine at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center” located in nearby North Terrytown affirms that the hospital does not send any one back without providing the proper treatment. In addition, the same article informs that many police officers of Hispanic origin are deputed in the area to provide proper training that can bring awareness in illegal immigrants in the direction of living with Americans. (Costello)

The side-effect of such immigration from Ecuador also highlights the fact that most of the male folk leave their wives back in Ecuador and remarry in USA, mainly to get a green card. This has created social havoc back in their native place as some regions there have only female residents waiting for their husbands.

Statistics of Hispanics residing in USA

Around 687,000 Hispanics who have come from Ecuador were staying in U.S.A. during 2013, as per the figures released by Pew Research Center that quoted Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. While Ecuadorians accounted for 1.3 percent of the total Hispanic population in USA, their number has almost tripled from 1990 to 2013, as their population grew from 186,000 to 687,000 during this period. According to this report, Ecuadorians living in USA have a median age of 32, while around half of their population present in the country speak English. While two-thirds of this population lives in North-east, almost four persons out of ten live in New York area. Their average earning in the country is around $24,000 per year. As per these records pertaining to the year 2013, the population count of Ecuadorians in New York was 277,000 and that in New Jersey was 125,000. (Lopez)

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Appeal to provide “Temporary Protected Status” to Ecuadorians

Ecuadorians staying in New York and surrounding areas received the sad news regarding the wide-spread devastation caused by a massive earthquake, of 7.8 magnitude, during early April 2016, in Ecuador. Sympathizing with the sufferers, many politicians and law-makers in New York pleaded with federal government to provide “temporary Protected Status” (TPS) to Ecuadorians staying in New York and surrounding areas. They argued that illegal immigrants staying in New York area face uncertainties back home fearing further devastation, as the earthquake was responsible for more than 650 deaths while injuring more than 16000 people in Ecuador.  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also supported such petition made to Obama administration.

According to de Blasio, more than 140,000 Ecuadorians stayed in New York city as illegal immigrants. He observed that the uncertain conditions back home will make it impossible for them to return to Ecuador. While TPS is granted initially for 18 months, the reports suggest that during 2014 around 340,000 immigrants from eight countries stayed in U.S.A, with legal protection provided under TPS. (Regan, 2016)

Ecuadorian parade in New York City

While New York city has more than 200,000 people, who are Ecuadorian natives, as of 2017, these inhabitants organized a parade during August 2017 as being part of the annual Ecuadorian Parade in the area. As the parade ran through 69th to 86th street, in Jackson Heights, along Northern boulevard, many elected officials including the Mayor Bill de Blasio attended this parade with enthusiasm. While doing so, de Blasio addressed the gathering that included his praising remarks for Ecuadorians staying in New York City area for their contributions to the region through their challenging work. He also praised the elected legislator, Francisco Moya, for his efforts to ensure that people from Jackson Heights are always given a fair hearing, as Ecuadorians were proud of electing Moya to become the first Ecuadorian native state legislator. (Ecuadorian, 2017) 

(Source: http://queenstribune.com/thousands-attend-ecuadorian-parade-jax-heights/)

The above picture provides a glimpse of this parade. While this parade saw the participation of local business persons and art institutions from all the five boroughs, Moya is the elected state legislator for “D-Jackson heights”. (Dowd, 2017)

Fransisco Moya

While Moya was elected from 39th Assembly District as a legislator in the year 2010, he was the first Ecuadorian-american resident to have this honor. Fransisco Moya has been living in corona areas of Queens, where he started community services at the young age of 15. As Moya started the “Corona Gardens Neighborhood Association” that witnessed the particpation of all concerned neighbors. The actvities of this group included block-watching, organising tree plantation and other beautification programs in the area.

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As Moya was politically active during most part of his life, he was associated with two congress members, Brad Sherman and Nydia Velazquez while doing graduation from St. John’s University. Later-on, he earned his National Urban Fellowship for getting a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Fransisco was instrumental in development of three clinics to attend to the needs of the community. These included a wellness-center for seniors as well as a clinic that was exclusively for women. This was possible as Moya worked in Elmhurst hospital, under the Queens Health Network, where he was later promoted to the rank of “Asocciate Director of Business Development”. Fransisco was appointed secrety to the Senate to be associated with David.A.Peterson, who was the Senate Minorty Leader at that time. Frasnisco thus had the honor of becoming the highest-ranking Latino within the state government.

While actively working for the cause of Ecuadorians in New York and Queens area, Fransisco was the spekesman for the family of an Ecuadorian immigrant, Jose Sucuzhanay who was beaten to death during 2008. Fransisco acted as a spokesman for the community and organised vigils and rallies against hate crime. While working tirelessly for the welfare of Ecuadorian community in USA, Fransisco has helped the kids in corona area to have their own sports program during after-school hours at St. Leo’s school. (Biography, nd)

According to Moya, most people voted for his Assembly election and his office had to send back many anthusiastic Ecuadorian voters as they had come to vote for Moya from different constituencies. Fransisco was also thankfulful to his mentors, as he opines that his National Urban Fellowship provided him the right opportunity to help latino population in getting higher education of best quality. (Fransisco, nd)

Conclusion

The people from Canara and Cuenca in Ecuador used clandestine routes through Mexico and Central America to reach the United States of America during 1970s, as oil prices collapsed, and Ecuador faced severe economic crisis along with financial mismanagement. The passage of Immigration Reform and Control Act by U.S.A. during 1987 enabled many illegal immigrants, who arrived in USA through illegal means, to obtain legal rights for permanent residency in the country. According to available information from various sources, the wave of Ecuadorian immigration continued from 1970s to 2000s.

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As the number of Ecuadorians kept on increasing in New York area, the white Americans held a feeling of hatred against such non-English speaking refugees, who were cutting on the jobs meant for Americans. This resulted in many violent attacks on Ecuadorians in the area, which shattered the community. However, it also resulted in few Ecuadorian leaders such as Francisco Moya to organize the masses and hold rallies against such violence and hatred. The arduous work and active political lobbying of Moya helped the Ecuadorian community in Jackson Heights and other areas of New York to have better health-care facilities as well as access to quality higher education.

The annual rallies in the form of parade at Jackson Heights indicate the cohesiveness of Ecuadorians to organize support against the discrimination faced by them. While addressing one such parade, the New York Mayor called for providing “Temporary Protected Status” to Ecuadorians staying in USA, in the wake of massive earth quack in Ecuador that caused widespread devastation.

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  11. Regan. D. M., “Law makers call for protected status for Ecuadorians living in U.S.”, Article from PBS NEWSHOUR, (2016) Web. 14 November 2017, <https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/lawmakers-call-for-protected-status-for-ecuadorians-living-in-u-s>
  12. Walters. J., “Trump urged to cancel near place where Latino man was killed in 2008”, Publication from theguardian.com, (2016), Web. 14 November 2017, <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/14/donald-trump-long-island-hate-crime-marcelo-lucero>
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