New York, Vermont and New Hampshire counties have seen a record uptick in illegal border crossings in the last quarter as more migrants are reportedly crossing into Canada to avoid detection.
As more migrants swarm the southern border, increasing numbers have turned to the less-fortified, more expansive U.S.-Canada border, the New York Times noted in a report published Sunday, detailing how U.S. officials at the northern border have recorded 191,603 encounters with people crossing into the United States last year, a 41% increase from 2022.
While most still use legal ports of entry, more than 12,200 migrants were apprehended crossing illegally from Canada in 2023, a 241% uptick from the 3,578 arrested the previous year.
Canada does not require travelers from Mexico to have a visa to enter the country. As a result, the Times report said, a 295-mile strip of the border along those northeastern states known as the Swanton Sector has seen a tremendous increase.
“The record-breaking surge of illegal entries from Canada continues in Swanton Sector. A citizen’s report in Champlain, N.Y., led to the arrest of 10 Bangladesh citizens. Agents rely on the vigilance of our community. If you see something, say something! Call 1-800-689-3362,” U.S. Border Patrol Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia wrote in a social media post on Thursday.
Since Oct. 1, 2023, Swanton Sector Border Patrol Agents have apprehended more than 3,100 people from 55 countries, Garcia wrote in a prior post on X this month, noting those apprehensions in just the last quarter make up more than the total illegal crossings in fiscal 2022, 2021, 2020 and 2019 combined for the Swanton Sector.
He shared a photo that shows an early morning apprehension of four adult males from Bangladesh on Feb. 1, near Mooers, N.Y.
The Swanton Sector makes up Vermont; the Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence and Herkimer counties of New York; and the Coos, Grafton and Carroll counties of New Hampshire.
Border Patrol officials said 15 missions have rescued 37 migrants along the northern border since October 2022, the Times reported.
Clinton County Sheriff David Favro, whose office has been involved in some of those missions, told the Times that migrants often get lost in the woods for hours or fall into freezing water and suffer hypothermia. He described a need for more “boots on the ground” to monitor the northern border. Currently, federal officials estimate about 2,200 Border Patrol agents monitor the U.S.-Canada border, which stretches 5,525 miles and is considered the longest international border in the world.
Though none is in place now, Canadian government officials are considering imposing a visa requirement for Mexican travelers after Quebec Premier Francois Legault warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month to stem the flow of asylum seekers as city services were near a “breaking point,” Reuters reported.
At least a dozen migrants, including families, children and a pregnant woman, have been found frozen to death in rivers or in the forest over the past two years while attempting to cross the U.S.-Canada border. Federal prosecutors in Syracuse, N.Y., have been building several cases against American and foreign-based human smuggling operations advertising online to help guide migrants across the Canadian border into the United States in exchange for thousands of dollars per person.
Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York ordered the extradition of a Columbia man living in Quebec on smuggling-related charges related to the death of a 33-year-old woman who was five months pregnant and found frozen to death in a river near Champlain, N.Y., in December.
Prosecutors say the man advertised on TikTok and accepted $2,500 from the woman and her husband to help guide her by text message as she walked alone across the border. The woman’s husband, already in the U.S., notified Border Patrol when the woman never emerged from the woods, the Montreal Gazette reported.
The Times described how Plattsburgh, N.Y., has become a layover stop for migrants who cross the Canadian border and often haggle with ride-share drivers or bus operators for discounted lifts – often for the five-hour drive to New York City or other destinations. A gas station there has become an unofficial meeting point for migrants strapped for funds, and local motels are often forced to take migrants in during the winter under a rule that requires them not to turn away travelers when temperatures drop below freezing.
Two migrants from Venezuela told the Times they came to Montreal, took an hour-long Uber ride south and walked over the border through the woods until they were stopped by U.S. immigration officials. The pair said they underwent a criminal background check and were granted parole, meaning they were released into the United States while awaiting court dates.
On the flip side, Canadian immigration officials have been known to reject asylum claims from migrants seeking to move north over the border. A Colombian man who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and en route to Canada to reunite with his sister told the Times that Canadian immigration officials turned him away.