From April 18-20, 2022, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas traveled to Panama City, Panama to attend a Ministerial Conference on Migration and Protection with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and foreign and security ministers from throughout the region. During his visit, he met with President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes, and Public Security Minister Juan Manuel Pino, as well as representatives of international organizations, to discuss regional coordination in managing irregular migration.
“The migration of so many people throughout our region presents a humanitarian challenge that must be addressed through collective action,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The countries in our region are facing this challenge together, and we must work together to address it.”
On April 18, Secretary Mayorkas toured the Darién region with Panamanian Minister of Public Security Juan Pino, and saw firsthand where desperate and too-often exploited migrants attempt the treacherous journey into Panama. He also heard the challenges the Government of Panama and international humanitarian organizations face in assisting these migrants, and the challenges Panama faces in managing this border region.
On April 19, Secretary Mayorkas met with Minister Pino, along with the Director General of the National Migration Service, the Director General of the National Border Service, the Director General of the National Police, and the Director General of the National Aeronaval Service to discuss humane border management and border security. Afterward, Secretary Mayorkas joined Secretary Blinken and met with President Cortizo, Minister Mouynes, Minister Pino, and other members of President Cortizo’s cabinet to further discuss migration and security cooperation and other issues of bilateral interest.
Secretary Mayorkas then made his first official visit to the Panama Canal, and was joined by Secretary Blinken. The tour was led by Minister of Canal Affairs Artistides Royo and Panama Canal Authority Administrator Ricuarte “Catin” Vásquez. During the tour, Secretary Mayorkas discussed security measures and cooperation at this key node of international trade and hemispheric security. Secretary Mayorkas highlighted the Canal as a symbol of the prosperity and opportunity that comes from cooperation in the region. Secretary Mayorkas then met with representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to discuss migration-related issues in Panama and the region.
At the Ministerial Conference on Migration and Protection, Secretary Mayorkas joined Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Security, and Ministers of Defense from North, Central, and South America, as well as multilateral development banks, UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM, and other organizations to discuss the importance of a regional approach to managing migration and regional responsibility sharing. They agreed on the importance of the proposed Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection to be concluded in June at a side event when the United States hosts the Summit of the Americas.
During the Ministerial, Secretary Mayorkas addressed the need to coordinate at a regional level to stem irregular migration flows through enhanced prevention and enforcement efforts; create viable legal pathways; address root causes and invest in the stabilization of communities that need it most; foster legitimate trade and travel to help economies prosper; screen and repatriate those who do not qualify for relief; and combat transnational crime. Furthermore, on the margins of the Ministerial, he had the opportunity to meet bilaterally with the Colombian Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Marta Lucia Ramírez, and Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín.
During Secretary Mayorkas’s trip, the United States and Panama signed a Bilateral Arrangement on Migration and Protection detailing our collaborative commitments to improve migration management, expand stabilization efforts, and increase access to legal pathways and protection for those in the region. This Arrangement on Migration and Protection adds to the expanding regional migration management framework that the United States is developing with counterparts across the Americas.
“The Arrangement on Migration and Protection is a part of the ongoing effort to work across the region to address irregular migration,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “Every country must do its part. We will continue working with partners in the hemisphere to implement a coordinated approach to humane border management that includes improving access to protection and legal pathways, stabilization efforts, and protecting the integrity of our borders.”