Posted on December 26, 2020

Wave of ‘Extra-Continental’ Migrants Predicted in Biden’s First Year

Todd Bensman, Center for Immigration Studies, December 18, 2020

It bears remembering that next year’s now-broadly predicted surge of illegal immigration to the U.S. Southwest Border — largely the result of the Biden campaign’s months of messaging that the incoming president will clear all obstacles and penalties for it — will include not only Spanish-speakers.

Aspiring migrants who in past years have shown up from more than 150 countries also have heard the Biden-Harris clarion calls of welcome. They are building up behind a dam of Latin America coronavirus border closures and of President Trump’s deterrence policies, waiting for the moment when they are all removed sometime during 2021.


Besides often evidence-free tales of persecution, war, and economic woe, these uninvited strangers also will arrive as higher national security risks that will need careful scrutiny considering the ills that beset their home countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. They will show up, often without even identification, never vetted for involvements in Islamic terrorism, espionage, war crimes, or other criminality they may have committed in home countries with failed governments unable to keep intelligence databases or criminal files that American authorities can check.


Thousands of extra-continentals are backed up in heavily transited Panama, which as CIS reported from the country in late 2018, has long served as an almost unavoidable through-way for U.S.-bound migrants who initially landed in South America. At least 22,000 migrants entered Panama from Colombia during 2019.

A recent United Nations report said a Panamanian coronavirus quarantine in effect since March has trapped or significantly slowed migrants from Haiti, Congo, Bangladesh, and Yemen in increasingly overcrowded government camps. {snip}

Before the region’s quarantine, Panama and Costa Rica had an agreement known as “controlled flow” that provided government food, temporary shelter, medical care, and buses that would move the migrants from one country to the next; Nicaragua did not participate, so human smugglers took over from there. But now Costa Rica has closed its borders for the pandemic, as have Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. All forward movement is now back in the hands of human smugglers for those who can muster the money to pay.

{snip} Frustration has led to unrest in the government camp for 200 people in the small Panamanian village of La Penita, where up to 2,000 migrants stuck there have set fire to facilities and damaged vehicles in their demands to be set free.


If the incoming Biden administration chooses to not hear or see analysis coming from CIS or security hawks, it should take at least some cues from the professional career intelligence community analysts who wrote the Department of Homeland Security’s recently released first national threat assessment.

When it was released in October, the assessment gained widespread media attention and drew no serious credibility challenge for its conclusion that white supremacist violence posed a top domestic national security threat in 2021.

But the DHS assessment also predicted a significant surge of migration from outside the western hemisphere to the southern border, among them a kind of migrant the authors somewhat ambiguously referred to as “threat actors”.

The assessment said this about a surge of migrants it predicted as coming to the southern border from around the world:

“Although the majority of migrants do not pose a national security or public safety threat, pathways used by migrants to travel to the United States have been exploited by threat actors,” the report states. “As a result, surges of migrants could undermine our ability to effectively secure the border.”

The assessment goes on to make reference to foreign terrorist organization interest in probing for “vulnerabilities in US immigration and border security programs”. It said that, “Collectively, vulnerabilities may create an illegal migration environment that FTO’s [foreign terrorist organizations] could exploit to facilitate the movement of affiliated persons toward the United States.”