Former Panama Border Chief: UN Is Behind the Chaos at US–Mexico Border

PANAMA CITY—The former director of Panama’s border patrol told The Epoch Times that the United Nations’ migration agenda is behind the chaos at the U.S. southern border and that U.N. partners are making things worse instead of better.


Oriel Ortega, now a security and defense consultant to Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo, said during a Feb. 22 interview that he saw a jump in migration in 2016, at the same time that more nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) moved into Panama.

That increase corresponded with the U.N.’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration meeting in 2016. Two years later, 152 nations—including Panama—voted in favor of the compact to manage global migration. The United States voted against it.

But under the U.N., the migration process has been anything but orderly, Mr. Ortega said.

“It’s completely opposite right now,” he said through an interpreter.

Documents show that in 2023, a record 500,000 migrants traveled through the dense jungle known as the Darien Gap from Colombia into Panama. Migrants from around the world are flying into South and Central America to start their journey because countries such as Suriname and Ecuador don’t require a visa to enter. Their final destination is the United States.

The book “Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy,” written by Kelly Greenhill, suggests that weaker countries are using migration to destabilize their more powerful adversaries.

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Joseph Humire is the executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society and an expert on unconventional warfare. He told The Epoch Times that he believes that’s what Americans are seeing at the U.S. southern border now.

“This isn’t a conspiracy theory,” he said; the “invasion” at the U.S. southern border is “strategic engineered migration.”

Mr. Ortega agreed that the NGOs have “exacerbated” mass migration problems.

“Instead of helping, they’re being part of the problem,” he said. “It’s not the migrants themselves that are creating a national threat; it is the organized crime, and it is these international organizations.”

At the Lajas Blancas camp in Panama, migrants have access to a number of large maps provided by NGOs that display detailed migration routes heading to the United States. One map is from HIAS, an NGO founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which recently received $11 million from the United States in two grants awarded for Latin American migrants.


Migrants from Venezuela line up to get registered into Bajo Chiquito camp in the Darien Gap, Panama. (Bobby Sanchez for The Epoch Times)

The HIAS map shows the migration route from Colombia to Costa Rica, including detailed bus stops, temperatures, altitudes, and “migration kiosk” locations.

The Epoch Times visited all four migrant camps in the Darien Gap this week, speaking with migrants from China, Somalia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, and others who hiked out of the treacherous jungle leading from Colombia into Panama.

Many suffered from infections and injuries such as trench foot and broken limbs. Several complained that the water was untreated at the camps and that they lacked basic items such as diapers.

Migrants also told The Epoch Times that the NGO staff, several of which are funded by U.S. taxpayer money, only visited the camps for several hours each day.

“I do not know where the funds are going,” Mr. Ortega said of the NGOs when told about complaints from migrants. “The funds are supposed to be there to help the migrants.”

The only NGO workers spotted during the weekend of Feb. 17–18 were with the Red Cross, which was building a temporary structure for their workers, and Doctors Without Borders, whose medics were speaking with migrants.

The NGOs should be educating and helping migrants in their own countries, not Panama, Mr. Ortega said.


Former SENAFRONT Panama director Oriel Ortega speaks to The Epoch Times in Panama City, Panama, on Feb. 22. (Bobby Sanchez for The Epoch Times)

Instead of curtailing mass migration, they are facilitating it, he said.

International organizations even filed lawsuits against Panama, alleging human rights violations for holding 2,500 migrants from Haiti. But Mr. Ortega said the migrants were only being held “because of unsafe conditions,” but he didn’t elaborate.

While the U.N. has aided migrants for decades, the scope of its operation has dramatically expanded, with the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States surging.

Nearly $1.3 billion of U.S. taxpayer money was given to the U.N. and other agencies assisting migrants in 2023, according to a government spending database.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration arm, is paying for the expansion of camps, including ones near the Darien Gap, one in Lajas Blancas, and another new facility near camp Bajo Chiquito, Mr. Ortega said.

It’s up to the NGOs to sustain their operations, he said. SENAFRONT, the border patrol for Panama, which he once headed, should only be there for security, he said.


A migrant sits under a detailed migration map provided by an NGO, at a migrant camp in the Darien Gap, Panama. (Darlene McCormick Sanchez/The Epoch Times.)

Mr. Ortega said he pushed for the NGOs to be responsible for “their own problem that was caused by the global migration.”

“SENAFRONT should not be the one that does all the processing, attending [to] them and taking care of them,” he said.

Panama has tried, to no avail, to get governments in South America to provide personal information on migrants who are moving across different countries, he said.

“We don’t have collaboration because the Global Compact does not work,” Mr. Ortega said.

The migrants are fleeing because of issues within their countries, such as unstable governments or cartel activity, he said.

“There’s a triangle of things that are happening in the central parts of the continent that pushes people out of their countries so they can migrate to the United States,” he said.

He noted that mass migration has already caused problems in many countries, including the United States.

“As we have seen in New York, bad people are arriving in New York,” he said.

“And they are causing a lot of damage and a lot of disturbances to the government of the United States of America.”

IOM and HIAS didn’t respond to requests for an interview.

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