White House Signs Deal With Panama To Crack Down On Major Illegal Immigration Route To US

The Biden administration on Monday inked a deal with the Panamanian government to help stop illegal migration along the Darien Gap, a sign that the country’s new president is following through on a major campaign promise.

The White House announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Panama, an initiative that will deploy American screening officers to assist their government deport migrants who cross the Darien Gap, a vast jungle region between Panama and Colombia that hundreds of thousands of migrants trek across every year en route to the U.S. The announcement followed a pledge by then-presidential candidate Jose Raul Mulino to close Panama off to illegal immigration.

“Specifically, the United States will support Panama’s efforts to begin the swift, safe, and humane repatriation of migrants who do not have a legal basis to remain in Panama,” a White House statement read. “By returning such individuals to their country of origin, we will help deter irregular migration in the region and at our Southern border, and halt the enrichment of malign smuggling networks that prey on vulnerable migrants,.”

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials with asylum screening experience will be dispatched to the Central American country to assist in the processing of migrants, according to an announcement from DHS. The Biden administration will also be providing funds to beef up Panama’s deportation infrastructure.

“Irregular migration is a regional challenge that requires a regional response,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “As the United States continues to secure our borders and remove individuals without a legal basis to remain, we are grateful for our partnership with Panama to manage the historic levels of migration across the Western Hemisphere.”

The announcement of the deal came on the same day Mulino was sworn into office, according to the Associated Press. Mayorkas was among those in attendance at the swearing in ceremony.

Mulino won the Panamanian presidential election earlier in May, beating his closest rival by nearly 10 percentage points, as he rode a wave of voter discontent over the nation’s slow economic growth and an endorsement from a popular former president. The 65-year-old attorney also campaigned on a pledge to put a stop to the illegal immigration that runs through the Darien Gap.

The jungle region has proven to be an incredible pipeline of South American illegal migration bound for the U.S.-Mexico border. Over half a million migrants passed through the region in 2023, over double the number that had crossed the year before, according to the Council of Foreign Relations.

However, many experts and Panamanian locals question the feasibility of closing down the Darien Gap, given the denseness of the jungle that makes it tough to police, the dangerous cartels that populate the area and the sheer number of migrants crossing.

Republished with permission from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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