Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ecuador: The Newest Stop On the Snake

Illegal immigration from China to the USA has a history as long as U.S. immigration law. Having worked as a consular officer in Ecuador until 2007, I was intrigued to see that a recent change in Ecuadorean visa law has hugely affected the number of Chinese using Ecuador as an entry point to the Americas, with the ultimate goal illegal immigration to the USA.

Chinese organized crime is the first to take advantage of this open door to South America. Since the Ecuadorian government dropped visa requirements, authorities have registered a 500 percent increase in "Chinese tourism" from 2007 to 2008.

According to statistics from Ecuadorian police, some 2,875 Chinese tourists arrived in the country between January and June 2008. During the first three months after the removal of the visa restrictions, some 7,837 Chinese entered the country, shifting the daily entry average from 13 in 2007 to 78 by the end of 2008.

With the already well-established illegal immigration routes from Ecuador into the USA, is it any surprise that Chinese Snakeheads would jump on the chance to bring their clients to Ecuador visa-free? I'm quite sure these new "tourists" aren't buying the stuffed llamas and leather jackets. No, they're working in chifas (Chinese food restaurants) for free until they can be shipped off on some foundering vessel to Panama or Guatemala.

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