The number of migrants crossings through a key, and highly dangerous, migration route surged in the first half of 2023, setting a new record and outpacing 2022, despite the efforts of the U.S. and other governments to slow the surge.
The number of migrants who traveled through the Darien Gap — a massive jungle that serves as a pathway through Central America and towards the U.S. — is close to 250,000 already in 2023, The Associated Press reported, citing Panamanian officials.
That is higher than the total for all of 2022, and a record pace of migration through the gap, the outlet reported.
While Republicans have blamed the Biden administration for the record surge in numbers at the U.S.-Mexico border between 2021 and 2023, the administration has pointed to a hemisphere-wide migration movement and called for an international response — including the signing of a declaration at a summit in Los Angeles last year.
One of those agreements was announced in April, when the U.S., Panama and Colombia announced a 60-day campaign to try and curb the flow of migrants moving north through the Gap.
“Recognizing our shared interest and responsibility to prevent the risk to human life, disrupt transnational criminal organizations and preserve the vital rainforest, the governments of Panama, Colombia and the United States intend to carry out a two-month coordinated campaign to address the serious humanitarian situation in the Darién,” the statement said.
The campaign aimed to end the illicit movement of people, open new “lawful and flexible pathways” for migrants and launch a plan to “reduce poverty, improve public service delivery, create jobs and promote economic and sustainable opportunities in border communities in northern Colombia and southern Panama, through international partnerships across financial institutions, civil society and the private sector.”
While it is unclear whether that strategy has had an effect on the numbers at all, The Associated Press cited U.N. estimates that as many as 400,000 migrants may cross through the gap by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, a congressional delegation visited the area last month and showed footage to Fox News Digital of migrants moving to the border, flooding to a nearby village in their thousands. Republicans claimed that they are being drawn to the border by the Biden administration’s policies.
“People are coming out of the jungle into this village, overflooding this village, and then they move on their way. They’re coming to the United States because the door is open and that’s why we’re here,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., said.
He later showed a stop-off aid center that is run with help from the U.N., U.S. and Panama, which he said was better organized than the village.
“This is a stop-off before they continue their journey to the north, and finally when they get to the border with Costa Rica, they are released and they make their way up through Costa Rica, Central America and then into the United States,” he said.
However, there are reports that the numbers increased again in July, and the administration was dealt a blow last week when a federal judge blocked its cornerstone rule that limited asylum claims for illegal immigrants after a legal challenge by left-wing activists.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.