Panama’s government estimates another 60,000 Haitians are likely heading to the U.S.-Mexico border, Panama Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes revealed in an interview with Axios this week.
Mouynes said she is urging the United States to help enforce a plan organized with other countries in the region, noting that they must “recognize that they all are heading toward the U.S.”
Mouynes said over 85,000 migrants have passed through Panama since January, with the majority being Haitians. Between 20,000 and 25,000 Haitians have already made the journey to America’s southern border with Mexico, Axios noted, with the majority being released inside the U.S.
“When we receive them on the Panamanian side, they’re malnourished,” Mouynes said. “The children are in terrible condition, so even getting them up to a healthy state takes time.”
Panama “sounded the alarm when we should have,” Mouynes said, noting that the nation also warned President Joe Biden’s administration about the first Haitian migrant caravan that overwhelmed U.S. Customs and Border Protection earlier this month. On Tuesday, Mouynes concluded a series of meetings in Washington with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and members of Congress.
“We’ve engaged with every single authority that we can think of, that we can come across, to say, ‘Please, let’s pay attention to this,'” Mouynes said.
To address the growing migrant crisis, Latin American officials stopped allowing charter planes to land in countries with migrants and imposed quotas at border to keep the flow of migrants manageable.
“If you can control migration, you can support it,” Mouynes said.
Mouynes said she wants Mayorkas to commit to a migrant plan, as well as pressure other nations to do the same. Mouynes noted engagement with Haiti also needs to be improved because the situation “will not solve on its own.”
“We all have a role to play in this issue, and the regional approach is the correct approach,” Mouynes added. “It is impossible for Panama to solve it on its own.”
On Sunday, Sec. Mayorkas admitted between 10,000 and 12,000 illegal Haitian immigrants who gathered under the international bridge in Del Rio have been released into the U.S.
“They’re released on conditions. Approximately, I think it’s about 10,000 or so, 12,000,” Mayorkas told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.
Of the nearly 5,000 that were still being processed at the time of the interview, Mayorkas added that the Biden administration “will make determinations whether they will be returned to Haiti based on our public health and public interest authorities.”
“So are we talking about a total of 12,000 or it could be even higher?” Wallace asked.
“It could be even higher,” Mayorkas responded.