President Donald Trump’s claims that Middle Eastern migrants were traveling Central American routes to the U.S. border, among them some Islamic terrorists, spawned a confused national debate that never quite moved past disputes over just the basic facts. Such as: Can, have, and do migrants from countries of terrorism concern, where Islamic terrorist groups operate, actually travel through Latin America to the U.S. southern border, terrorists sometimes among them? Too often, pundits declared with certainty that neither had happened. The administration didn’t help matters by declassifying evidence to support its claims.
To help clarify the discussion with facts, the Center for Immigration Studies published this Backgrounder by Senior National Security Fellow Todd Bensman, reporting that more than 100 migrants on U.S. terror watch lists had been apprehended at the U.S. southern border, or en route, in recent years and listed 15 suspected and confirmed terrorists who had made the journey through Latin America. The Center then sent Bensman to Panama, which is a key bottleneck country where migrants from countries of terrorism concern reportedly had to move through first to even reach the Central American lanes to the American border. The following video, photos, and content reflect Bensman’s findings from December 3-15, 2018, field research in Panama, which also took him to the Costa Rica border. Bensman found hundreds of U.S.-bound migrants from countries of terror concern and interviewed Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis.