Border Crisis

Biden Signs Election-Year Deal to Close Panama’s Darien Gap Migrant Pathway

One of the most dangerous obstacles for migrants hoping to enter the United States at the southern border may be closing after an election-year agreement between Panama and the Biden administration. On Monday, the White House announced an agreement between the two governments to significantly reduce crossings through Panama’s Darien Gap, potentially closing the pathway to scores of migrants headed to the United States’ southern border in search of asylum.

The move will mirror recent agreements with Mexico to slow the pace of illegal crossings during an election year when the current President has trailed in the polls on the topic of illegal migration at the southern border. Since May, Jose Raul Mulino, Panama’s current president, has vowed to crack down on the popular but dangerous route for migrants who head to the United States in search of the American dream. As reported by Breitbart Texas, the route has been traveled by more migrants headed to the United States under the Biden administration than at any other time in U.S. history.

Located between Panama and Colombia, the Darien Jungle is one of the most formidable obstacles migrants will face on their trek to the United States. The UN International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project estimates more than 250 migrants died crossing the Darién Gap between January 2018 and June 2023 — more than 40 were children.

“Anecdotal reports indicate that many migrants die in the Darien Gap and their remains are neither recovered nor reported, so this figure presents only a small fraction of the true number of lives lost,” IOM officials stated.

Panama’s new President may close the route to illegal migrant traffic after an agreement announced on Monday. President Mulino vowed to crack down on the dangerous route for people headed to the United States southern border in a move that will further enhance efforts by the Biden administration to counter the unpopular optics of an out-of-control border during the election year.

In a statement released on Monday, the White House said:

Today, the United States and Panama signed a Memorandum of Understanding designed to jointly reduce the number of migrants being cruelly smuggled through the Darien, usually en route to the United States. 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.  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.

The topic of illegal migration to the United States is but one issue facing the Biden administration that threatens his reelection to the presidency. Recent agreements between the government of Mexico and the Biden administration to reduce illegal migration into the United States produced a significant drop in migrant apprehensions along the southern border but do not account for more than 2,00 virtually unscreened migrants under unprecedented parole programs along the southern border through land border ports and airports that see nearly 2,500 asylum seekers admitted each day under “lawful” pathway DHS parole programs.

Mulino’s plan to close the Darien Gap jungle to migrants hoping to reach the United States border has not been clearly articulated in any operational scope or timeline. The lack of specifics might indicate the move to be part of the recent efforts between the Biden administration and Mexico’s government to reduce crossings along the U.S. southern border during the presidential election cycle.

The hazards posed by the jungle include several rivers with currents that increase significantly during the rainy season. The jungle hosts an abundance of wildlife, including jaguars, pumas, and wild hogs. Aside from the natural hazards of the habitat, the Darien is home to violent drug and contraband traffickers, paramilitary groups, and guerillas.

The danger is even greater for the female migrants who attempt the crossing. Sexual assaults and rapes have been reported to authorities regularly as the number of migrants attempting the crossing increases. Between May and August 2021, Doctors Without Borders treated 105 women who had been sexually assaulted. Many more sexual assaults are believed to go unreported.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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