As media reports covering the surge of Haitians into Del Rio, Texas, have waned, a new wave is building. Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-TX) indicated during an interview with the “Real America” podcast that upwards of 100,000 new migrants are headed toward the U.S.-Mexico border from the south.
Quoting Panamanian Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes, Rep. Gonzalez told host and GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, “There’s over 100,000 coming through Panama on their way to the U.S. as we speak.” FM Mouynes’ figures likely come from the Senafront, Panama’s militarized border police force which maintains order among and often rides boats with migrants passing through the Darien Gap, regarded as one of the most dangerous places on Earth.
Senafront processes hundreds of migrants daily at the San Vicente Migratory Reception Center in Meteti, Panama, as well as at other migrant camps in the area. After reaching the town of Bajo Chiquito, the migrants are often met by the Senafront soldiers who then escort them across the river and to one of the migrant centers where their documents are processed.
Through this process, Panama is able to certify and account for all of the migrants who pass through their system. With around 3,000 miles left in their journey to the U.S.-Mexico border, the migrants generally are kept at San Vicente before being loaded onto buses for the ten-hour trip to Costa Rica, where they will continue their trek northward.
Having already traveled over 5,000 miles, the migrants’ trek will take them over 8,000 miles in total over two continents. The migrants hail from various nationalities including Haitian, the majority; Cuban; Venezuelan; and those from a range of West African countries. The majority of the migrants had escaped the perils of their own home countries and fled to Brazil and Chile for work and safety.
Particularly with the introduction of the COVID pandemic into the mix, work dried up for the migrants in their adopted homes. At the same time, both of these countries became known among the migrant populations for their racism, particularly against the Haitians and their form of Creole language. The newly-inaugurated president in Chile had even campaigned on an anti-migrant platform, making them feel even more unwelcomed there.
Through their trip, particularly as they traverse the Darien Gap, the migrants face almost certain robbery, violence, and rape. Panama reports 52 known deaths in the Darien Gap so far this year, with the true number being unknown as many are not reported and there is no way to account for those who go missing. Every man contacted for a recent article in the U.K. Daily Mail reported having been robbed in the Gap. Similarly, Doctors Without Borders, which has clinics set up near the migrant camps, reports that 200 women so far this year have been treated for rape incidents occurring in the Gap.
The Darien Gap is named such as it is the only stretch along the route from Ushuaia, Argentina, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, that is not navigable by conventional motor vehicles. It covers a portion of northwest Colombia and southern Panama, encompassing the border between Central and South America. The area’s dense foliage and jungle have prevented the development of infrastructure necessary to complete the Pan-American Highway and continue it through this area. Because of its remoteness and distance from civilized areas, it has become a haven for criminals to perform their acts upon vulnerable migrants.
Once the migrants have passed through the Gap, been processed by Panamanian authorities, and moved northward to Costa Rica, they will have already survived a number of life-endangering situations. The events they will encounter on the rest of their trip will be as dangerous.
Over the next 3,000 miles, the migrants will encounter a hot, dry climate year-round that create desert conditions. This also brings with it the danger of attack by wild animals all along the route, including wolves, coyotes, poisonous snakes and spiders, scorpions, and others. The climate and third-world conditions of the Central American countries leave water that is safe for drinking in scarce supply along the route. Similarly, available food and hygiene supplies can be in short supply.
They still face the likelihood of robbery, rape, and kidnapping for labor and sex trafficking. With each of these also comes violence, particularly if the migrants attempt to protect themselves against their attackers.
As the Central American countries are aware that the migrants’ final destination is either the United States or Canada, they allow them to flow through virtually unhindered. In some locations, processing similar to that performed by Panama may occur. Any such processing, though, would be more for census purposes and gaining a count of the migrants passing through rather than to enforce any kind of restrictions upon them.
Under an agreement with then-President Donald Trump, the nation of Mexico stepped up its efforts along its southern border to prevent migrants from passing through their country. They have been increasingly processing migrants who arrive at their southern border and working to return them to their countries of origin. Recognizing that many will make their way either through or around these checkpoints, Mexico has also increased efforts along its northern border with the United States.
Upon his inauguration, current U.S. President Joe Biden relaxed restrictions on entry into the United States, including removing a requirement that had been negotiated between President Trump and Mexico for migrants to remain in Mexico while they await the decision on their asylum application. Even with this, Mexico remained amenable to continuing to house asylum applicants on their side of the border through the process.
President Biden’s actions and words were taken by many as an invitation to make the trek and to enter the United States, even if doing so proved life-threatening and illegal. By taking actions such as suspending, or canceling for all intent and purpose, the construction of a border wall, the “Remain in Mexico” program, and by processing migrants and sending them deeper into the United States, the Biden Administration has seemingly invited more migration.
This led to a highly-publicized gathering of approximately 15,000 Haitian migrants under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. While the migrants had felt invited to assemble in this manner, the Biden Administration bemoaned the conditions and went so far as to publicly excoriate border patrol agents attempting to protect the border and turn away migrants from unauthorized border crossing points.
The message that came from this event was that migrants are welcome regardless of the laws regarding entry into the United States. Once here, the country will work to treat you humanely, providing you with food, water, restroom facilities, and hygiene supplies. As we get you processed, we will provide you with travel to virtually anywhere in the country, and provide you with lodging during your travels if necessary.
While these words were not specifically spoken, this is what the migrants understand.
The result of this is increased migration to the United States from South and Central America, with large numbers of Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, and West Africans. The number has grown so large that FM Mouynes has predicted another 100,000 migrants headed to the U.S.-Mexico border.
When it was mentioned that her prediction would be good information to be shared with the Biden Administration, FM Mouynes indicated that either her calls are not being taken by U.S. officials or that her warning is going unheeded. “There’s no one home. I’m talking to you (Rep. Gonzalez) because the administration is absent.”