U.S. Border Patrol agents say the number of people illegally crossing into the U.S. from Canada reached an all-time high in January, and didn’t slow down in February.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, incidents and arrests at the Canadian border have jumped nearly 850 percent over the last year in the Swanton Sector, which covers 295 miles of the northern border in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York.
Agents say they encountered people trying to illegally cross into the Swanton Sector a total of 367 times in January and 115 incidents in the first week of February.
“This is unprecedented. These are highs that Swanton Sector hasn’t seen before,” said Robert Garcia, the Chief Patrol Agent of the Swanton Sector. “We’re seeing traffic across the entirety of the AOR (Area of Responsibility), [with] elevated levels in the Eastern New York area as well as the Newport, Vermont area.”
Garcia says many of the people attempting to cross are Mexican nationals. U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that of migrants who illegally crossed the northern border from October 2022 to January 2023, 945 were from Mexico, 216 were from Haiti or Guatemala and only 16 were from Canada.
While Garcia would not speculate on the reason for the surge at the border, he said that some of the migrants are members of transnational criminal organizations that are trying to move people into the U.S.
“A lot of times, it is in fact a smuggling case, and/or migrants that are looking to be smuggled,” Garcia said.
The increase in illegal crossings has caught the attention of lawmakers in recent months, including Republican U.S. Rep Elise Stefanik from New York’s 21st District.
On Tuesday, Stefanik and other House Republicans launched the Northern Border Security Caucus. Stefanik blamed President Joe Biden for the rise in illegal crossings in the Swanton Sector.
“Every state is a border state. Every district is a border district due to Joe Biden’s border crisis,” Rep. Stefanik said. “Our taxpayers, brave Border Patrol Officers, and northern border communities should no longer have to bear the brunt of this crisis.”
Vermont Democratic Sen. Peter Welch called the rise in illegal crossings “profoundly troubling.”
“Migrants who make the journey to the United States are often in desperate situations,” Welch said. “We need an immigration system that helps folks seeking safety and opportunity in the U.S., while maintaining the integrity of our borders.”
Garcia said agents in the Swanton Sector will continue doing all they can to keep the border secure. He urged people living near the border to call the agency if they notice anything suspicious.
“Border security is national security and it ties directly to public safety, and that should be a high priority for all of us,” Garcia said.
To report suspicious border-related activity in the Swanton Sector, you can call 1-800-689-3362 24 hours a day. To find more information on the Swanton Sector, go to @USBPSwantonSector on Facebook, or @USBPChiefSWB on Twitter and Instagram.