Panama just posted November records of migration through the dangerous Darién Gap jungles that straddle its border with Colombia. The result is unsurprising. They show that denying protection to people, even as it violates international human rights standards, will keep them from trying to come, at least in the short term.

Migration through the Darién plummeted 72 percent from October to November. This was led by a 98 percent drop in migration from Venezuela.

That fewer people risked crossing through the Darién Gap should be good news: hundreds each year die, are attacked, and suffer sexual violence along this ungoverned 60-mile walk. But the reason for the decline is not a happy one.

On October 12, the U.S. and Mexican governments announced that any Venezuelan citizens encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border would be swiftly expelled back into Mexico, without even affording them the chance to seek asylum. That denial of asylum is usually illegal, but the U.S. government invoked the Title 42 pandemic authority, in place since March 2020. On November 15, a U.S. federal judge struck down Title 42, so the expulsions should stop by December 21.

For now, though, the Title 42 expansion forced a pause in U.S.-bound migration through the Darién Gap. For unclear reasons, November also saw declines in migration of citizens from Peru (-92%), Colombia (-87%), Cameroon (-44%), Afghanistan (-31%), the Dominican Republic (-30%), and Ecuador (-25%). Other countries increased, though: Nigeria (+56%), China (+38%), Haiti (+24%), India (+20), and Bangladesh (+18%).

Despite the November decline, 2022 is already the busiest year for migration in the history of the Darién Gap, which until recently was viewed as nearly impenetrable.