(USA Features) The Panamanian government is warning that terrorist elements are blending in with migrants looking to cross illegally into the U.S. along a wide-open expanse of border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
“Members of terrorist organizations and sanctioned parties have found their way into Panama, where they are not permitted to enter in the first place,” wrote Panama Minister of Foreign Affairs Erika Mouynes for Foreign Policy magazine.
“Panama’s biometric identification measures have recognized and detained individuals linked to extremist groups attempting to pass through the country with migrants,” Mouynes added.
The foreign minister also lamented that Vice President Kamala Harris, who was tasked by President Joe Biden to solve the ongoing border crisis, has not scheduled a trip to Panama to address root causes of mass migration to the U.S. from Central America in an op-ed titled “The (Literal) Gap in U.S. Migration Policy,” which was published with the subhead, “Kamala Harris’s recent trip to Latin America missed a brewing crisis in Panama’s Darién region.”
“Vice President Kamala Harris’s recent trip to Central America — her first official mission abroad — is emblematic of the weight the White House has placed on the issue of migration,” Mouynes wrote.
“Unfortunately, however, Panama was left off the itinerary of her two-day trip, which included stops in Guatemala and Mexico. This despite the unprecedented number of migrants attempting to cross our border through a treacherous area of jungle known as the Darién Gap,” she added.
She noted further that the gap is both vulnerable and dangerous to migration.
“The problem of uncontrolled migration is not isolated to Texas, California, New Mexico, or Arizona,” she wrote.
“Farther south, on the Panamanian border, a parallel crisis is unfolding as unprecedented numbers of migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East attempt to cross the Darién Gap en route to Canada and the United States,” the Panamanian official added.
“The situation here is not a uniquely North American or Panamanian problem. It is an international humanitarian crisis that knows no borders and requires immediate collaboration,” she continued.
“Panama, for our part, looks forward to working closely with the Biden administration to formulate an effective policy response.”
Vetting of visas is particularly problematic in the gap, she wrote.
“The nations of the Americas must work collaboratively to control the flow of migration,” she continued.
“First among them is strengthening visa requirements and background checks throughout Latin America. A vast number of migrants crossing the Darién started their journey in South America, arriving through ports of entry in countries where visa requirements are less strict,” Mouynes noted further.
“Left unchecked, this migrant issue will compound — and its ramifications will reach far beyond Panama’s borders,” she wrote. “Even as Panama remains steadfast in its commitment to care for the migrants who have put themselves in our care — particularly those who are victims of human trafficking — the scale of the humanitarian crisis in our country and across the region demands international attention.
“We cannot single-handedly protect these migrants or address the underlying problems that have driven them into our borders. The situation will not be resolved if the international community continues to approach it as a U.S. problem or a Panama problem. In reality, it is everyone’s problem,” Mouynes concluded.