Connect with us

illegal immigration

Panama’s Incoming President Wants To Shut Down His Country’s Most Treacherous Route For Migrants — But Will It Work?

Published

10 minute read

From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By JASON HOPKINS

 

Panama’s new president-elect is pledging to close a key corridor used by hundreds of thousands of migrants en route to the U.S., but experts and Panamanians aren’t so sure it can be done.

President-elect Jose Raul Mulino handily won the Panamanian presidential election earlier in May, riding a wave of voter discontent over the country’s slow economic growth and an endorsement from a popular former president. The 64-year-old lawyer also campaigned on a pledge to end the illegal immigration that runs through the tiny Central American nation’s Darien gap — but some question the feasibility of that pledge, given the vastness of the jungle, the cartels that populate it and the sheer amount of migrants flowing through it.

“While President Mulino’s promise to close the Darien Gap to migrants appears to be made in good faith, it’s unclear how he could ever actually deliver,” Matt O’Brien, director of investigations for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The region consists of thousands of square miles of jungle that are virtually impossible to police.”

“And the gap itself is already home to massive migrant assistance operations that are funded by politically-potent, anti-borders groups from all over the world,” O’Brien added. “None of these organizations are likely to close up shop and go home without a fight.”

The number of illegal immigrants crossing the Darien Gap is incredibly massive — and rising. More than half a million migrants passed through the region in 2023, double the nearly 250,000 that had crossed the year before, according to the Council of Foreign Relations.

“The border of the United States, instead of being in Texas, moved to Panama,” Mulino said on the campaign trail. “We’re going to close the Darien and we’re going to repatriate all these people,” referring to a vast jungle region across Panama and Colombia known as the Darien Gap.

The pledge has received notable coverage from American media, and the Secretary of State’s office made mention of anticipated cooperation on the issue shortly after Mulino’s election victory.

The Darien Gap, however, is roughly 40 miles wide and 100 miles long, with a combination of rainforests and mountains and virtually no government presence, according to the Guardian. Hiking through the region can take days.

The area is also under the de facto authority of drug-trafficking organizations such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Gulf Clan paramilitary group, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The groups are known to extort and sexually assault travelers who pass through the region.

The idea of closing off the Darien has long been regarded as too much of a burden to accomplish, given these factors.

“Panama closed their border,” Wisconsin GOP Rep. Tom Tiffany said in 2021 after a trip to the Darien Gap. “But they, in effect, can’t because of the incredible crush of migrants that are coming from all over the world.”

More recently, Juan Pappier, the Americas deputy director at Human Rights Watch, framed Mulino’s promise to close the Darien Gap as “virtually impossible.”

The majority of migrants crossing the Darien Gap are Venezuelan nationals, but people from Ecuador, Haiti and other African and Asian countries also utilize these routes to make it to the U.S. border.

Panamanians have made notice of the enormous flow of migrants crossing their country on a daily basis.

“It’s impossible to not run into a foreigner who is begging for money or puts their child in front of you to beg for money, or sell you chewing gum or candy,” Allan Baitel, a born-and-raised Panamanian citizen, told the DCNF. “We have a lot of individuals who are present on the streets at all times, 24 hours a day with signs asking for help.”

Baitel noted that the government is “doing its best” to mitigate disruptions to daily Panamanian life by getting the migrants off the street and moving them to the border of Costa Rica. While he acknowledged the difficulty in closing up the Darien Gap, he expressed optimism over Mulino’s background.

“It’s going to be very hard to close the gap, very difficult,” he said, noting that Colombia was unlikely to help in the effort. Colombia’s leftist president, Gustavo Petro, has long been hesitant to adopt measures to physically bar migrants from entering the jungle, claiming that a more humanitarian approach should be taken.

“Let me tell you that Mulino’s background is in security,” Baitel said. “He has preparation in having to deal with a lot of these issues, so he may have something up his sleeve.”

Currently, the Panamanian government’s policy has been to immediately bus incoming migrants to the Costa Rican border, allowing them to carry on in their U.S.-bound journey. In a recent radio interview, the incoming president said most would-be migrants would simply not even try to cross Panama once he begins deporting them.

“Because when we start to deport people here in an immediate deportation plan the interest for sneaking through Panama will decrease,” Mulino said in the radio interview. “I assure you they are going to say that going through Panama is not attractive because they are deporting you.”

For many Panamanian citizens, the crisis hasn’t made much of a personal impact on them since the vast majority of the migrants are quickly moving on and out of the country.

“We don’t see that many, no one wants to stay here. They want to get to the shining city on the hill,” said Surse Pierpoint, a third-generation Panamanian who spoke to the DCNF.

Pierpoint said that the topic of immigration doesn’t even crack the “top five” issues that matter to him at the moment. Like many other voters, Pierpoint cited the tough economic times the country has faced and he liked Mulino’s agenda for the private sector.

Panama, once the top performing economy in Latin America, has struggled with credit downgrades, slow economic growth, less foreign direct investment and the closing of a major copper mine. The president-elect campaigned on a pledge to bring life back into the private sector with a pro-market agenda.

As for closing the Darien Gap, Pierpoint has doubts: “I don’t know how he can do that frankly,” he said. “It sounds good, but I don’t see how it’s feasible in the short term.”

While so much attention has been focused on Mulino’s ability to close the migration routes himself, policy experts in Washington, D.C,. and locals in Panama alike also pointed the finger back at the Biden administration. The crisis taking place in this Latin American isthmus, they say, begins and ends at the White House.

“Panama president-elect Jose Mulino’s pledge to close the Darien Gap route that migrants are traversing on their way to the U.S. southern border demonstrates the far-reaching negative consequences of Pres. Biden’s immigration policies,” Eric Ruark, director of research at NumbersUSA, said to the DCNF. “This is a humanitarian crisis entirely of President’ Biden’s making, and Panama is just one of the countries dealing with the fallout.”

“All of this has to do with the United States,” Baitel added. “It will not cease until there’s a very drastic change in the United States.”

Todayville is a digital media and technology company. We profile unique stories and events in our community. Register and promote your community event for free.

Follow Author

illegal immigration

Biden And Red States Are On Immigration Collision Course Heading For Supreme Court

Published on

From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By JASON HOPKINS

 

The Biden administration is currently waging a legal campaign against Republican-led states, arguing their laws that effectively restrict illegal immigration are unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice has so far filed lawsuits against three different states for enacting laws that largely empower police to enforce immigration rules. However, these state leaders, in the backdrop of an unprecedented border crisis, say they have no choice but to take up the issue themselves because the Biden administration won’t — and other Republican states may soon follow suit.

Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma have all signed similar bills into law in recent months that make it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant. Texas Senate Bill 4, Iowa Senate File 2340, and Oklahoma House Bill 4156 empower their law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants and bestow various penalties for unlawful presence in the country.

“Due to the abdication of this administration’s duty to enforce the law, states are trying to protect themselves,” Matt Crapo, a senior attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, explained to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “They are trying to do so by mirroring federal law, enforcing the same type of laws if this administration was enforcing the law.”

The Biden administration, however, argues these laws are unconstitutional as they intrude on the federal government’s sole authority to enforce immigration law.

Whether or not these states can enforce their laws will likely depend on the Supreme Court. The law passed in Texas, the first of the three to take up this approach, will likely end up back into the nation’s highest court.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute, a legal organization that supports stricter immigration enforcement, filed an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Texas SB4. Crapo said his organization plans to file similar briefs supporting the Iowa and Oklahoma bills once those states file in opposition to preliminary injunctions imposed by federal courts.

IRLI argued in its Texas brief that, while SB4 “parallels” similar federal immigration offenses, the law does not interfere with the federal government’s power to decide which classes of aliens are admissible or removable.

However, not all legal experts agree the Texas law adheres to the Constitution.

“SB4 is cruel, inhumane, and clearly unconstitutional,” Kate Melloy Goettelsenior legal director at the American Immigration Council, said in March statement. “All these bills could result in significant civil rights abuses, leading to widespread arrests and deportations by state actors without key federal protections.”

“Our hope is that SB4 is ultimately blocked in court; otherwise, this sets a disastrous precedent,” Goettel continued.

Immigration experts aren’t sure how the Supreme Court will ultimately rule.

“It’s sort of an open question as to whether the Supreme Court is going to allow Texas to criminalize illegal entry into Texas,” Art Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies said to the DCNF, noting how this case is fundamentally different than the lawsuit against a 2010 Arizona law that criminalized illegal immigration status, but was largely struck down. “Texas’ argument is ‘look, the federal government doesn’t completely occupy the field with respect to this crime because trespassing is an essential state crime and this is basically a trespassing offense.’”

Arthur noted that the Texas legislation is fundamentally different to the Iowa and Oklahoma laws, meaning potentially very different outcomes in their court challenges. Unlike Oklahoma and Iowa, Texas borders Mexico and has more standing to enforce trespassing.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in SB4 will give us a lot of idea of how much vitality these other laws have, but these other laws are distinguishable from SB4,” he said. “For that reason, if the states are serious about this, they will have to litigate it all the way up to the Supreme Court.”

Similar to what sponsors of this legislation have argued, Arthur said that the passages of these state laws are not “political stunts,” but cries for help and assertions that the Biden administration has abandoned immigration enforcement.

Federal immigration data show that illegal immigration is at historic levels.

Border Patrol agents have had more than 1,171,000 encounters with illegal immigrants this fiscal year, according to the latest data by Customs and Border Protection. Well over six million such encounters have been made since the beginning of President Joe Biden’s White House tenure.

The massive influx of illegal immigrants has been followed by high-profile crimes, such as the killing of a Georgia nursing student allegedly at the hands of a Venezuelan illegal immigrant and the attempted breach of the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia allegedly by two Jordanian nationals living unlawfully in the country. A report by a New Jersey lawmaker found that his state is shelling out over $7 billion annually to cover the costs of illegal immigrants.

For these reasons, Republican state leaders say they have no choice but to address the crisis themselves — even if the Biden administration threatens to sue them for it.

“The Biden administration refuses to do their job, so we need to do it,” Louisiana state senator Valarie Hodges said to the DCNF. Hodges is the sponsor of a bill that, if signed into law, will also make illegal immigration a state crime.

Her legislation, Senate Bill 388, makes illegal entry punishable by up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine for the first offense, and up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine for a second offense. The bill has already passed both chambers in the state legislature, and needs procedural approval from the state senate before heading to the governor’s desk.

Much like the governors and attorneys general of the states already sued by the Department of Justice, the state senator appeared unfazed at the prospect of a court challenge.

“When the federal government won’t do their job, what course do we have?” Hodges asked. “We’re going to collapse if we don’t do something. I believe we are within our constitutional boundaries to do this.”

“Maybe we should sue them for not doing their job,” she added.

The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

Continue Reading

Crime

The US Canadian border: Greatest number of terrorist watch list individuals being apprehended at northern border

Published on

A Border Patrol agent standing watch at the Montana-Canada border in the CBP Spokane Sector. The Spokane Sector covers the U.S.-Canada border along the northwestern section of Montana, part of Idaho, and the eastern part of Washington.

From The Center Square 

Lack of operational control at northern border poses national security threats

The northern border largely has been unmanned and understaffed for decades as federal reports issue conflicting conclusions about how much, or how little, operational control exists.

Some officials have suggested the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just 1% operational control over the northern border after a 2019 General Accounting Office audit of U.S. Customs and Border northern border operations. But a December 2022 DHS report claimed, “The Border Patrol is better staffed today than at any time in its 87-year history,” noting no surveillance of extensive parts of the northern border existed prior to 9/11.

After 9/11, several federal agencies were combined to fall under the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Within 20 years, roughly 950 miles along the U.S.-Canada border from Washington to Minnesota, and roughly 200 miles along the northern border in New York and Lake Ontario, were under unmanned aircraft surveillance. None of these areas “were covered prior to the creation of DHS,” DHS says, meaning the northern border was largely unprotected since Border Patrol’s founding in 1924.

In 2012, DHS released its first unified department strategy for U.S.-Canada border security, prioritizing “deterring and preventing terrorism and smuggling, trafficking, and illegal immigration; safeguarding and encouraging the efficient flow of lawful trade, travel, and immigration; and, ensuring community resiliency before, during, and after terrorist attacks and other disasters.”

Within 10 years at the northern border, more than 2,200 Border Patrol agents were stationed between ports of entry; nearly 3,700 CBP officers were stationed at ports of entry; more than 35 land ports of entry were modernized; and thermal camera systems, mobile and remote video surveillance systems had been deployed.

Havre Sector Border Patrol agent patrolling northern border on an ATV. The Havre Sector covers the U.S.-Canada border along most of Montana’s northern border, and includes part of Idaho and all of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

Despite these improvements, “the northern border is under-resourced by far compared to the southwest border,” former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan told The Center Square. “But at the same time, it still represents significant threats. Cartels are expanding their operations, flying people into Canada, which doesn’t require a visa, presenting an opportunity for terrorist watch-listed individuals to exploit. It’s much easier to get to Canada to come across.

“Data from 39 months shows terrorist watch-listed individuals are coming here every day and they aren’t stopping,” Morgan added.

For years and prior to the current border crisis, there weren’t enough personnel to cover all shifts, and the infrastructure, technology and equipment afforded to them didn’t compare to those at the southwest border, he said. People can easily drive snow mobiles over frozen territory or boats across the Great Lakes in areas that are unmanned, Morgan said, with a previous policy of self-reporting to authorities.

“The northern border represents a threat,” Morgan said. Noting it only took 19 men to carry out the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Morgan has warned that a terrorist threat is already in the U.S. No one knows how many terrorist watch-listed individuals have illegally entered who weren’t caught, multiple officials have told The Center Square.

While much attention has focused on the southwest border, the greatest number of known or suspected terrorists to ever be apprehended in U.S. history were at the northern border in fiscal 2023, breaking fiscal 2022’s record, The Center Square first reported.

This fiscal year through April, the greatest number of KSTs (known or suspected terrorists) continue to be apprehended at the northern border, 143 so far, according to CBP data.

Potential terrorist threats are not new and have persisted for some time, federal reports indicate. One Border Patrol  intelligence report says terrorist threats potentially come from “foreign violent extremists to exploit established alien smuggling routes and networks for the purpose of evading detection en route to the United States.”

Other threats include drug smuggling from Canada into the U.S., connected to “criminal groups with known ties to or hired by Mexican drug trafficking organizations” and human smuggling. In the last few years, human smuggling attempts and apprehensions have significantly increased, The Center Square has reported.

The Center Square first began reporting on northern border national security threats several years ago. Since then, apprehensions of illegal border crossers in the first six months of fiscal 2024 were the highest on record. In the busiest sector of Swanton, Border Patrol agents recently apprehended more people in one week than they did in all of fiscal 2021.

Last month, they apprehended more than 1,400 illegal border crossers, more than they did in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 combined, Swanton Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent Robert Garcia just announced, saying it was “another record-breaking milestone in northern border history.”

This is after they apprehended more than 6,700 in fiscal 2023, more than the apprehensions of the previous 11 years combined, The Center Square first reported.

The U.S.-Canada border is the longest international border in the world of 5,525 miles. Unlike the U.S.-Mexico border, there are no border walls or similar barriers along the U.S.-Canada border. Through DHS, CBP officers are tasked with border security at ports of entry and Border Patrol agents between ports of entry along 4,000 miles. The U.S. Coast Guard, working with CBP’s Air and Maritime Operations, covers maritime security.

Continue Reading

Trending

X