Today I read the disturbing news that the Foreign Ministry of Ecuador is considering the introduction of regulations on foreign residents in Cuenca. The reason for this heighten concern is attributed to new estimates that over 8,000 Americans are now permanent residents in Cuenca. Including foreign residents from Europe, Canada and Australia the total population is estimated at more than 12,000. Until recently it was thought that the population of foreign permanent residents in Cuenca was only about 5,000.
Its important to keep in mind that while this latest estimate more than doubles the number of foreign residents in Cuenca, in a city of 580,000 inhabitants, this represents only 2% of the total population. Its hard to believe that 2% of the population could cause so much economic havoc that it would require regulation. Its concerning that Ecuador would risk discouraging more foreigners from moving to Cuenca since they help grow the economy. Unlike the United States, where Americans fear competition from foreigners for their jobs, the vast majority of the immigrants moving to Cuenca are retirees.
As a New Yorker, I’ve always viewed diversity and immigration as net positives. Of course there will be people who benefit less and some who are hurt by these forces but as a whole the society becomes more dynamic and resilient. New York City is the best example of this process. Its no coincidence that at 37%, New York City has the highest percentage of foreign born residents of any other city in the world.
Given that New York has been so good to my parents, who immigrated there from Ecuador over 40 years ago, I hope Cuenca will be as welcoming to me and family. Just as other countries have taken in Ecuadorians for decades, Ecuador should now be proud that it attracts foreigners from all over the world to live and retire in their beautiful country and welcome them with open arms.