The Biden administration will be opening a new legal immigration pathway for certain immigrants from Ecuador in a bid to dissuade people in the South American nation from trekking to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to internal federal government documents obtained by CBS News.

The administration will be setting up a family reunification program that will allow eligible Ecuadorians to fly to the U.S. and apply for temporary work permits if their U.S.-based relatives have sponsored them for an immigrant visa, according to the Department of Homeland Security documents.

The initiative will be the latest Biden administration attempt to reduce illegal border crossings, which soared to a yearly high in September, by offering would-be migrants expedited pathways to enter the U.S. legally. Over the past two years, officials have revived or created similar family reunification programs for immigrants from Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras.

DHS officials, the documents said, hope to “provide an alternative to dangerous irregular migration” through the policy, which was confirmed later on Wednesday by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“Establishing this process for certain Ecuadorian nationals will ensure more families can access lawful pathways rather than placing themselves at the mercy of smugglers to make the dangerous journey,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

Ecuadorian migration to the U.S. border soars

The program will also mark the first time the administration creates a program specifically for Ecuadorians, who have journeyed to the U.S. southern border in record numbers over the past year. In the first 11 months of fiscal year 2023, Border Patrol apprehended nearly 99,000 Ecuadorians who entered the U.S. without authorization, a 312% spike from fiscal year 2022 and an annual record, federal data show.


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