Central American Countries’ Northward Busing of South American Immigrants

This October, the Costa Rican government declared a national emergency and formed a plan with Panama to shuttle migrants [on buses] from its southern border to its northern one. Costa Rican officials say the busing program has removed . . . [a migrant encampment], as well as alleviated the strain on border communities and provided people a safer alternative to paying human smugglers. A similar busing program has been adopted by Honduras.[1]

This Costa Rican program is in response to a “doubling the number of crossings from [200,000] last year and leading to a massive tent encampment along Costa Rica’s borders, complaints from business owners and a rise in abusive smuggling operations.”

This development “has raised alarms in the United States, which has called on its Latin American allies to deter people from making the treacherous journey north by encouraging them to apply for refugee status closer to their home countries.” U.S. officials have also argued that the busing routes only incentivize more migrants to flee their homes and make the dangerous journey to the U.S. border. Their Central American counterparts argue migrants are already set on traveling to the United States and the busing system is making the journey less dangerous.”

“The busing program is not free, and has added one more fee to the many that migrants are confronted with on their costly journey north. . . . In Panama, each person must pay $60 to be bused to Costa Rica’s main terminal. They then must pay another $30 to board a shuttle that will take them to the Nicaraguan border. The fees are collected by the bus companies, which are licensed by the governments.”

This busing “can also be dangerous. Earlier this year, at least 39 people were killed when a bus ferrying migrants through Panama fell from a cliff. Last month, 18 migrants died in a bus crash in Mexico and a crash in Honduras left four dead and a dozen injured.”

It should also be mentioned that Panama is in the midst of violent protests about a government contract that allows a Canadian company to expand its copper mining operations here and whether the country should preserve its natural resources or develop them.[2]


[1] Youngs & Bolanos, A New Answer for Migrants in Central America: Bus Them North, N.Y. Times (Nov, 8, 2023).

[2] Salcedo, Why ordinarily quiet Panama has erupted in deadly protests, Wash. Post (Nov. 8, 2023).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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