- By Bethany Blankley
(The Center Square) – Federal agents patrolling the U.S.-Canadian border in Vermont, upstate New York and New Hampshire continue to apprehend record numbers of foreign nationals illegally entering the U.S. from Canada.
Last month, Border Patrol agents reported 816 apprehensions and 371 gotaways, according to preliminary data obtained by a Border Patrol agent on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The data only represents Border Patrol data and excludes Office of Field Operations data, meaning the numbers are likely higher. Agents also reported 19 people they identified who illegally entered the U.S. but turned back to Canada.
These are the highest numbers ever recorded in Swanton Sector history.
The sector encompasses 24,000 square miles, which in addition to all of Vermont’s border, includes six upstate New York counties and three New Hampshire counties. It spans 295 miles of international boundary with the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, of which 203 miles is on land. The remaining 92 miles of border fall primarily along the St. Lawrence River. The sector is the first international land boundary east of the Great Lakes.
This sector has consistently led northern border sectors in reported apprehensions and gotaways. Last month, Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia said, “In just over 5 months, we have apprehended more individuals than the last three (3) Fiscal Years combined. The current rate of illicit cross-border activity is unprecedented for Swanton Sector.”
He also said over a 12-day-period in March, agents “encountered 28 children under the age of 14, the youngest only five months old.”
“Illegal entry along the northern border is dangerous” he added, saying illegally bringing in the “vulnerable population” of children “is reprehensible.”
Garcia also described how concerned citizens help Border Patrol agents save the lives of foreign nationals disoriented by subfreezing temperatures. In one incident that occurred last month, for example, Champlain Station agents responded to residents’ calls about a woman wandering in the snow. Agents searched the area in question and found a female Mexican citizen who’d illegally crossed the border into the U.S. from Canada that morning when it was 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Temperature extremes and the associated hazards have done practically nothing to deter cross-border human traffic in our area,” Raymond Bresnahan, acting patrol agent in charge of the Champlain Station, said in a statement of the incident. “Stations in Swanton Sector – Champlain in particular – have responded to historic levels of illicit border crossings that have trended upwards since October 2021.”
Due to the severity of her frostbite injuries, the Mexican woman was transported to Champlain Valley Physician’s Hospital in Plattsburgh, New York, and later transferred to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington at taxpayer expense.
In another instance, Border Patrol agents have helped U.S. attorneys prosecute human smugglers. Last month, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont announced the sentencing of a New Jersey man to 14 months in prison for “conspiring to transport foreign nationals in furtherance of their illegal entry into the United States.” He was also required to serve three years of supervised release after he completes his prison term.
The sentencing was announced March 23 after Jose Alvarez, 31, of Trenton, New Jersey, pleaded guilty. He’d been arrested last September near East Berkshire, Vermont, after he picked up four Guatemalan citizens who entered the U.S. illegally. Three of the Guatemalans said they each expected to pay $2,000 to $3,000 to Alvarez or his associates as a fee to be smuggled into the U.S.
U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest credited Border Patrol agents “for their investigation and apprehension of Alvarez and their continued efforts to prevent the exploitation of foreign nationals by human-smuggling organizations.”
Last month, Garcia said encounter data showed a “persistent upward trend despite average temperatures below freezing and greater snowfall than January. Dauntless in the face of all obstacles, our Border Patrol agents stand against the breach of our 295-mi. of border.”
In January, Swanton Sector agents apprehended more people than they did in “12 preceding years of January totals combined,” he said. “Prior to January, Swanton Sector experienced an uninterrupted 7-month streak of sustained encounter increases – part of an upward trend dating back to the beginning of FY22.”
While the number of apprehensions pale in comparison to southern border apprehensions, they represent a 743% increase from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022, and an 846% increase from Oct. 1, 2022, to Jan. 31, 2023, comparative to those timeframes last year.
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