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Ecuador's Counterproductive Fight Against Illegal Immigration

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Ecuador's Counterproductive Fight Against Illegal Immigration

Ecuador’s government has devised a new way to discourage illegal immigrants, mainly from Cuba and China, from entering into fake marriages with natives in order to stay in the country. Under a new law, all foreigners who want to marry Ecuadoreans have to stay in a country at least 75 days before being allowed to have a legal wedding. According to Ecuadorian authorities, the new law will allow the state to verify on whether these foreigners are not merely manipulating the country’s legal system to get a passport which would allow them to stay almost anywhere in South America for 90 days without a visa.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the new law would carry serious human costs. Take the case of a young couple who met last year in Chile while they were both on academic exchange semesters there—she is from Ecuador and he from Europe. They were planning to get married this fall when this law was implemented unexpectedly in June.  Having a firm intention of getting married but no intention of spending at least 75 days in Ecuador the couple submitted a petition against this law in their case.

The General Director of Civil Registration, Identification and Certification granted the couple a waiver from the law to allow them to get married, but did not make it clear how long the waiver would be valid for—so the groom took the first flight to Quito. This couple got married last week, but not without obstacles—the official presiding the ceremony almost balked upon realizing that the groom had not been in the country for at least 75 days. This story had a happy ending, but how many couples would be thwarted because of the new law?

The government’s stated reason for this law is to prevent Cubans and Chinese who want to stay in the country from paying Ecuadorean nationals to marry them so they can obtain an Ecuadorean passport.

Indeed, “fake marriages” are a thriving business in many countries. But all this law would do is increase the cost of such weddings, not stop them. People who profit from entering into fake marriages will have good reason to increase the payment for their services due to new governmental obstacles.

Moreover, the law will encourage corruption, as people working for the government will be able to profit from selling fake documents to people eager to avoid waiting for 75 days.

Finally, people who would like to get married legally and stay to live and work in Ecuador will be given a new reason to leave the country for their new spouses’ country

At the end of the day, these new restrictions will bring more harm than good to Ecuador—and its citizens.