The Biden Administration is planning to deploy a team of U.S. immigration officials to Panama to aid in the screening and deportation of migrants, CBS News reported Monday, citing sources.
According to CBS’ sources, the Department of Homeland Security has identified a team of officials with experience screening asylum-seekers and deleting migrants who will be sent to Panama, though DHS is waiting for Panama’s government to sign off on an official agreement.
Panama is not one of the Central American nations that make up the turbulent Northern Triangle from which growing numbers of migrants have been fleeing poverty, violence and other challenges; those nations are El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
However, a recent surge in migrants crossing the the Darién Gap—a rugged jungle that connects Panama with South America—has added to what the government of Colombia has called an “unstable crisis.”
This past September alone, more than 75,000 migrants crossed the roadless Darién Gap on foot, only a few thousand fewer than the 82,000 who crossed in August, which was the highest tally ever recorded by the Panamanian government. Nearly half of those who’ve crossed the harsh jungle have been women and children.
DHS aims to have U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials train and assist Panamanian officials grappling with the increasing numbers of migrants attempting the Darién Gap.
The Biden Administration also plans to train Panamanian officials on screening migrants for humanitarian protections and to deport those who don’t qualify.
The Panama migrant initiative would be funded through the U.S. State Department, and the Biden Administration has reportedly notified Congress of its intentions to divert the money to DHS from State to fund the effort.