Ecuadorians in US demand immigration help after earthquake

Ecuadorian immigrants in the United States ask Obama administration to grant residency and work permit for Ecuadorians who live in country illegally.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

A group of Ecuadorian activists ask Obama administration to allow their fellow citizens living in the US illegally to stay here and work, Los Angeles, United States, May 4, 2016.

Ecuadorian immigrants demand the US administration to provide their fellow citizens living in the US without necessary documents to be provided residency and work permits while the South American country recovers from last month’s devastating earthquake.

A group of Ecuadorian activists living in Los Angeles joined similar calls by Democratic lawmakers and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who asked the administration to designate temporary protected status for Ecuadorians in the US days after the quake.

A group of 32 Democratic lawmakers signed a letter asking the Obama administration for Ecuador to be added to the list of more than a dozen countries eligible for the status since the quake flattened entire towns along its Pacific coast.

On April 16, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador killing more than 650 people, injuring 16,000 and causing severe damage to infrastructure.

In this Tuesday, April 19, 2016 photo, residents look at a riff on a highway created by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, in Chacras, Ecuador. (AP)

The US periodically grants temporary protected status to countries that is ravaged by war or natural disasters, such as Nepal following a 2015 earthquake.

Under the program, immigrants can get work permits but not green cards and are not allowed to bring relatives to live in the US.

The government estimates that there are more than 300,000 people living in the US with temporary protected status.

Some activists have also urged Ecuador's President Rafael Correa to request the program for his countrymen living in the US.

Critics, however, say the status isn't really temporary since it can be continually renewed, noting Salvadorans granted the benefit in 2001 still have it.

"The problem is because presidents are able to renew TPS on their own, it has simply been renewed indefinitely for everybody," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which wants more limits on immigration.

Krikorian said a better way would be for the US to simply refrain from deporting citizens temporarily while their countries recover from a crisis.

About 130,000 Ecuadorians were living in the country illegally in 2012, according to the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center.

TRTWorld, AP