Flashback: South American Countries are Being Used as Springboards for Mass Migration to the U.S.

The recent border surge has had many people wondering how Haitians — migrants from a country that doesn’t even border the U.S.— could be reaching the U.S. border. 

An article titled “The Unlikely New Gateway for African Migrant to the Americas: Ecuador”, which was published on July 14, 2019, could potentially clue us in to where these migrants and other migrants from countries that don’t border the U.S. are staying at before they make their way stateside.

Ecuador is the unlikely place that migrants make a pit stop at before heading to the U.S. It’s particularly attractive for African migrants. As Deborah Bonello and Sean Culligan observed, thousands of Africans enter countries like the U.S. through Ecuador because of its lax visa policies. Bonello and Culligan explained why the level of migrant growth from Africa to Ecuador has increased so much:

Thousands of Africans are entering the region via Ecuador because of a visa policy that is lenient compared to those of most nations in the region: Citizens of most African countries can fly into the small South American country without a visa. In 2018, 1,283 people from the African continent arrived and left Ecuador, and this year that flow has grown — in just the first five months of 2019, 2,107 people passed through, according to figures from the country’s interior ministry. Since 2010, just under 15,000 people from Africa have traveled through Ecuador.

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In effect, African migrants are using Ecuador as a launch pad so that they can make their way up to the U.S.

 “They’re using Quito as a landing place, and then they go up — people just arrive and hitchhike their way up or do a lot of it on foot,” remarked Alexandra Lamarche, an activist at Refugees International who focuses on sub-Saharan Africa.

Now there’s talk of 60,000 migrants moving through Panama in efforts to make their way to the U.S. The latest immigration drama serves as another reminder of why immigration and foreign policy are intertwined. The U.S. has wasted so much money and diplomatic resources policing areas outside of its traditional sphere of influence that it has completely ignored its very vulnerable underbelly in the Western Hemisphere.

A serious national populist administration would severely retrench from non-Western Hemisphere affairs and focus all of its security and diplomatic resources towards Latin America. Constructive diplomacy with partners in Latin America and a strengthening of our border would go a long way in restoring order and keeping America’s sovereignty intact.

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