Illegal border crossings from Canada quietly rising, data shows

DERBY LINE, Vt. — More than 960 people crossed into the U.S. illegally from the northern border with Canada last year, according to data released from Customs and Border Protection.

While that number is a tiny fraction compared to the migration across the border with Mexico, it represented a 91 percent increase from the prior fiscal year, the data showed.

The Trump administration’s rhetoric on border security has largely homed in on the southern border, which has seen an influx of thousands of families with children from Central America seeking asylum in the United States.

But officials have also seen an increase of illegal crossings on the northern border in the last fiscal year, according to the data. In fiscal year 2017, immigration agents apprehended 504 people crossing illegally from Canada, compared to 963 in fiscal year 2018, the Border Patrol data showed.

A large percentage of that spike came from the Swanton border patrol sector — along the border of New Hampshire, Vermont and New York — where agents apprehended 548 people in 2018, up from 165 in all of 2017.

Preliminary data from October to January shows 465 apprehensions from Canada, with 294 in the Swanton sector.

An Agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protect patrols the line between Vermont and Quebec on his snowmobile.
An Agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protect patrols the line between Vermont and Quebec on his snowmobile.Kerry Sanders / NBC News

Border Patrol Agent Richard Ross, who runs the station in Newport, Vermont, part of the Swanton sector, told NBC News he thought the apprehensions were “definitely trending up.” He added that the type of apprehensions agents were seeing were “very organized,” sometimes using smuggling organizations.

Ross said he believed there may be a perception that traveling from Canada was “safer” and the increase could be attributed to recent immigration changes in Canada that allow those from some countries, such as Mexico and Romania, to enter without a visa.

He said some immigrants looking to get into the U.S. illegally could pay a few hundred dollars for a flight to Canada, pay a small electronic travel authorization fee and make their way into the United States.

Some smuggling agencies were “exploiting the fact that there’s an easier way to make it legally into Canada and then that provides some clientele to then be smuggled into the U.S.,” he said.

Ross said he had encountered instances of immigrants lured to Canada with the promise of employment. Once they arrive and there are no jobs, they become “ready-made clientele” for smugglers who charge them thousands more dollars.

This article originally appeared on NBC