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Immigration & The Border

U.S. transfers Border Patrol agents to northern border as migrant crossings from Canada rise

Migrants are flying legally from Mexico to Canada and then crossing south into New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. 
U.S. Border Patrol cameras capture migrants crossing the border into the U.S.
U.S. Border Patrol cameras capture migrants crossing the border into the U.S. in the Swanton Sector, which includes sections of Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.CBP

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has detailed 25 extra agents to a busy section of the northern border, effective Monday, as the number of migrants, particularly those from Mexico, crossing into the U.S. from Canada continues to rise, according to a CBP spokesperson.

At least some of those agents temporarily reassigned to the northern border were formerly stationed on the southern border, according to a source familiar with the move. 

NBC News previously reported on the rise in Mexicans crossing into the U.S. from Canada after legally arriving in Canada by air.

Though the Mexican border remains a far busier sector for crossings by undocumented migrants, the recent surge at the Canadian border is garnering more attention inside the agency and requiring additional resources, the source said. 

A CBP spokesperson said the agency began temporarily deploying Border Patrol agents from sectors “not experiencing an influx” to the Swanton Sector of the U.S.-Canadian border on Monday “due to migration fluctuations along the Northern Border.” 

“While the apprehension numbers are small compared to other areas with irregular migration flows, Swanton Sector apprehensions constitute a large change in this area,” a CBP spokesperson said. “The deployed team will serve as a force multiplier in the region and assist to deter and disrupt human smuggling activities being conducted in the Swanton Sector area of responsibility.”

The Swanton Sector, which includes sections of Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, experienced an 846 percent increase in apprehensions from October 2022 through this January, compared with the same period a year prior. In January, the latest month for which data is available, 367 migrants were stopped in the sector, compared to just 24 in January 2022. 

Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia said he is concerned about the welfare of migrants trying to cross the frigid terrain. 

“Not only is it unlawful to circumvent legal means of entry into the United States, but it is extremely dangerous, particularly in adverse weather conditions, which our Swanton Sector has in abundance,” Garcia said in a statement last month. 

Mexicans, more than any other nationality, have been blocked at the southern border and prevented from asking for asylum since Title 42 Covid restrictions went into effect in March 2020. 

Those migrants who can afford the $350 one-way plane ticket from Mexico City or Cancun to Montreal or Toronto and then cross the northern U.S. border are less likely to be turned back because of Title 42 than migrants at the southern border. On a per capita basis, the Border Patrol invokes Title 42 to block migrants from claiming asylum less frequently at the northern border than at the southern border.

But hypothermia and freezing to death are risks, particularly this time of year. On Feb. 3, CBP encountered a family with a 2-year-old and 8-month-old crossing at night into Newport, Vermont, as temperatures dipped to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit. 

On Feb. 24, Garcia met with Mexican government officials to address the dangers of Mexicans crossing into the U.S. from Canada. One official said CBP was “trying to get the message to people who are contemplating the trip to think twice and not risk it due to the hostile environment along the northern border in winter months.”

U.S. Border Patrol cameras capture migrants crossing the border into the U.S.
U.S. Border Patrol cameras capture migrants crossing the border into the U.S. in the Swanton Sector.CBP