CAPURGANA, Colombia - A fresh surge of migrants on the southern U.S. border is verging on crisis, especially due to the increasing numbers of children now in custody. More than 3,200 minors are in holding facilities – most of them detained in just the last two weeks.
This week, officials are expected to announce nearly 100,000 detentions at the border in February as a flood of migrants moves north from Central America in hopes that President Biden's policies will make it easier to enter the country.
Hundreds arrive each day, exhausted from a journey that's often lasted for years, seeking a better life. Now they believe the time is right to try their luck at entering the United States.
The surge of migration at the southern border is now so serious that the secretary of Homeland Security is begging for volunteers to go to the border to help with an "overwhelming" surge of illegal immigrants, according to the Washington Times.
The pipeline of immigrants now stretches all the way to South America where the migrants are big business for thieves and smugglers. CBN News contributor Chuck Holton is tracking the most dangerous part of their journey as they walk through the jungles of Panama.
The northward flow had all but stopped since last March when the pandemic hit. But now the new Biden administration is widely seen as welcoming all comers and the human pipeline is filling.
While the well-publicized caravans may begin in Central America, the origin is found much further south. Many here are fleeing violence and oppression, often passing through a dozen or so non-violent countries on their way to the United States.
CBN News spoke with a Sikh man from India who described his journey from, "India to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Suriname, Suriname by bus Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Ecuador to Colombia."
In this group, we found migrants from Turkey, Nepal, India, and Africa, though the biggest number were from Haiti.
We met one Haitian migrant who goes by the name Christmas. "I came here from Chile, where I've been for a year. But there's not enough work there, and it's a hard place to be undocumented, so we thought we'd look for someplace better," he said.
But that will require a trek through the forbidding Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama. Chuck Holton spent two days trying to catch up with migrants as they traversed this very dangerous area, without much success.
"I've been walking the Darien Gap trail now for over an hour, up and down these hills is incredibly hot, I feel like I've been standing in a warm shower. It's just kind of hard to even describe how miserable it is and I'm unencumbered. Imagine being out here with a baby, or pregnant or even in a wheelchair. I've seen all three of those things with the migrants in the last 24 hours, they're actually doing that. And it's because they have no idea the smugglers that bring them through here lied to them about how long this is and how difficult this is. And that's why many of them end up dying along the way," Holton explains.
CBN News found a smuggler, but he refused to take us to where the migrants were in the jungle. He claimed they are well cared for.
"They're privileged! And we never treat them badly," he claimed. "It's only four days to the camps in Panama."
After two days of searching, we finally found the right place before Holton was immediately surrounded by confrontational smugglers.
"The migrants are starting their hike now but the smugglers are telling me I can't go any further. They are telling me I can't," Holton said on camera as a smuggler pushed him.
CBN News correspondent Chuck Holton encounters human smugglers near the Darien Gap
"I can't go any further there and they are telling me I've got to leave. They don't want me filming this... they obviously don't want this story coming out," he said as the smugglers continued to physically block his path while yelling at him.
As the smugglers became more threatening, it was clearly time to leave. So Holton caught a ride with a teenager on a motorbike and that's when he realized why the smugglers don't want this story to get out. More than 10,000 migrants will likely pass through this tiny village this year. It's big business, which is why all the "guides" tend to have a brand new motorcycle.