Coyotes flood US border with Ecuadorians

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Coyotes flood US border with Ecuadorians

SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico — A giant red “X” marks the spot on the 14-foot-high border fence where smugglers dropped two Ecuadorian children onto a desolate patch of scrub from the Mexican side of the border.

The sisters — Yareli, 3, and Yasmina, 5 — who were reunited with their family in New York City three weeks after the March 30 incident, became a symbol for the callousness of the human traffickers known as “coyotes” who prey on desperate migrants.

The land near the fence is home to rattlesnakes, actual coyotes and even mountain lions, according to Border Patrol agents.

“I get chills every time I think about them,” said US Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Gloria Chavez, who personally intervened to help the girls when she saw infrared video footage of them being dropped over the border wall.

“My heart sank,” she told The Post. “I wanted to see with my own eyes that they were healthy. I was so proud of the actions of my agents.”

Border wall.
A red X marks the area where two Ecuadorian toddlers were dropped and abandoned by smugglers.
Joel Angel Juarez

But Yareli and Yasmina also signaled a new wave of apprehensions by Border Patrol.

In July, Ecuadorian nationals topped Mexicans as the dominant group making the trek to the southern frontier near El Paso, one of the busiest crossings along the 1,900-mile stretch of border between the US and Mexico.

More than 36,000 migrants from Ecuador were caught by Border Patrol agents in the region, compared with 35,066 Mexican nationals, the group which historically tops the list of those who try to cross, according to Border Patrol statistics.

Two young girls with border agent.
Sisters Yareli, 3, and Yasmina, 5, became a symbol for the callousness of the human traffickers who prey on desperate migrants.
US Border Patrol

Ecuadorians typically pay up to $15,000 per person to human smugglers, also known as “polleros,” or chicken herders, to reach the southern border, officials said.

“In debriefs we have found that the going rate for Central Americans ranges anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000, but the farther you go into South America, the price the transnational criminal organizations charge increases from $12,000 to $15,000 per person,” said US Customs and Border Protection public affairs officer Landon Hutchens.

“Why did I come?” said Alexander Herrera, 30, who arrived at the New Mexico border crossing near El Paso before dawn on Wednesday. “I came because I don’t have work. I live day to day. I want a better life for my daughter.”

Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Gloria Chavez.
Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Gloria Chavez personally intervened to help Yareli and Yasmina when she saw footage of them being dropped over the border wall.
Joel Angel Juarez

With tears beginning to stream down his face, Herrera showed The Post a tattoo on his left forearm dedicated to his 6-year-old daughter Alexandra Ashley, along with ones on his back honoring his parents, Silvia and Fernando. “Family: Sometimes we don’t have the richness of the world, but together we have everything,” read the arm ink in Spanish.

The Ecuadorian exodus is fueled by a grim economic outlook in the country, which has also been overwhelmed by COVID-19.

Ecuador has registered more than 32,000 coronavirus deaths in the last 18 months, and more than 500,000 confirmed cases, according to statistics compiled by Johns Hopkins University. According to the Ministry of Labor, more than 700,000 jobs were lost there as a result of the pandemic between March 2020 and March 2021. Only about half those jobs were recovered, the Ministry said.

Border agents apprehend a migrant.
The rise in Ecuadorian migrants is fueled by a grim economic outlook in the country, which has also been overwhelmed by COVID.
Joel Angel Juarez

More than 56,000 Ecuadorians left the country between January and May of this year and did not return, with more than 85 percent headed to Mexico and the US, according Ecuadorian daily El Comercio.

Herrera’s trip marked the third time he’d tried to cross the border into the US, where he hopes to join relatives in New York City. He left his home in Ecuador’s southern Loja province on Aug. 3, flying to Colombia and Panama, making his way “as well as I could” by bus and foot through Central America. The nearly 3,000 mile odyssey took about a month. He claimed he simply arrived at the border on his own, without having hired a smuggler, or coyote, to take him across Mexico.

Carmen Moreno and her older sister Lady Moreno were captured by Border Patrol agents, along with Herrera. The trio is from the same province in Ecuador, although they said they didn’t meet until they tried to cross the border together.

Alexander Herrera.
Alexander Herrera has tried to cross the border three times into the US, where he hopes to join relatives in New York City.
Joel Angel Juarez

The Morenos, both dressed in black clothes to avoid detection in a night crossing, were captured near the large, red “X” where the two Ecuadorian girls were thrown over the wall.

“I came to help my family,” Carmen Moreno, 23, told The Post. She made ends meet with babysitting jobs; her 24-year-old sister worked as a hair stylist in Loja, she said.

“There is plenty of work in Ecuador, but they just don’t pay anything,” Carmen said, adding that they were hoping to join cousins in Newark.

Alexander Herrera shows a tattoo.
Alexander Herrera shows a tattoo of his 6-year-old daughter’s name, explaining he wants to come to the US because he wants “a better life for my daughter.”
Joel Angel Juarez

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