U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas begin a two-day summit with officials in Panama Wednesday to discuss migration and other bilateral issues.
Panama has become a transit point for migrants seeking to come to the United States, with record numbers entering the country, the Reuters news agency reported.
The U.S. saw a record number of migrants trying to cross the southern border in the first year of President Joe Biden’s administration, and an even higher number is expected this year.
Blinken said the issue is a “priority” for the U.S., speaking during an official reception in Panama City Tuesday after he and Mayorkas arrived in the capital. “Migrants are vulnerable to exploitation of all kinds,” the top U.S. diplomat said. “Many are children, and their fates, their futures, are highly uncertain. We have a responsibility, a shared responsibility, to look out for them.”
The Biden administration has promised to address the root causes of migration and $1.2 billion in assistance to Central American countries.
The meeting precedes the Summit of the Americas to be held in Los Angeles in June.