WASHINGTON – The United States is considering granting Temporary Protected Status to Ecuadorians living on U.S. territory due to the earthquake that struck their country on April 16, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told EFE on Wednesday.
“In consultation with the appropriate agencies, the Department of Homeland Security is evaluating the impact of the earthquake and Ecuador’s recovery needs with the aim of determining if a discretionary TPS designation might be justified,” said Joanne Ferreira.
TPS is awarded by U.S. authorities in special circumstances to nationals of countries affected by armed conflicts or natural disasters, and it may be granted directly by the executive branch without the need for approval from Congress.
While the government studies the idea, immigration authorities announced on April 26 a series of measures to help Ecuadorians living in the United States.
Among those measures is aid to accelerate the resolving of job requests in some cases, as well as an exemption on paying the fees for some visas if the applicants can show that their financial ability had been harmed by the quake.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), along with other politicians and Latino organizations, have asked the government to authorize TPS to Ecuadorians living in the United States in this unusual situation.
According to 2010 Census figures, more than 600,000 Ecuadorians live in the United States.
Currently the citizens of several Latin American and Caribbean countries enjoy TPS, including Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua.
The magnitude-7.8 temblor that struck Ecuador last month left 660 people dead and 23 missing, causing an estimated $3 billion in damages and economic losses.