By Kanishka Singh and Ted Hesson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will travel next week with a delegation to Panama for a ministerial conference on migration with the government of the Central American country, a announced Friday the State Department.
During the trip scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, Blinken will meet with Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes and multilateral development banks, among others, the State Department said.
The United States has seen a record number of migrants attempting to cross its border with Mexico during President Joe Biden’s first year in office, and U.S. officials are bracing for even higher numbers this year, many of them other Central American countries: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Biden, a Democrat, has pledged to address the so-called “root causes” driving these migrants to leave their homes, and his administration has secured private sector investments in Central America worth more than $1.2 billion.
Brian Nichols, assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, said in a call with reporters on Friday that the region faces “unprecedented challenges” on migration and results may not come quickly. .
“The challenges are not new and it will take time to solve them alongside our partners,” he said.
The United States will host the ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June and aims to enter into a migration compact with other nations that “helps us keep people safe and integrated and in place where they are in our hemisphere. “, said Nichols.
A record number of unauthorized migrants entered Panama in 2021 from Colombia, according to government data provided to Reuters late last year, as most Haitians entered the Central American country en route to United States.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Jonathan Oatis)