A surge in illegal crossings at the United States-Canada border is straining local law enforcement and border protection agents already challenged by severe winter weather.
Illegal border crossings in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont are ten times higher than this time last year. The majority of migrants are from Mexico and travel to Canada with the intention of crossing into the United States.
The three states recorded approximately 2,000 illegal crossings between Oct. 1 and Feb. 28. At the same point in fiscal year 2022, there had been roughly 200 crossings.
The spike in illegal immigration not only increases the burden on local law enforcement but comes with an inherent risk to those attempting the journey. The freezing conditions and heavy snow increase the risk of hypothermia and frostbite.
“We are seeing more and more people, and it can be a deadly terrain if you’re not familiar with it,” Clinton County Sheriff David Favro. Clinton County is a rural area that touches 30 miles of the Canadian border near Quebec.
A team of officers from Clinton County, New York and Border Patrol agents rescued a group of 39 migrants in early March, per NBC News. Temperatures were so cold some of the individual’s clothes had frozen to their skin.
“The only way to really be able to cover and protect [the northern border] is boots on the ground,” Favro said, stressing the need for more personnel.
In response to the increase in illegal crossings, Customs and Border Protections assigned 25 additional officers to the 295-mile-long Swanton Sector of the northern border, which encompasses parts of New York, all of Vermont and parts of New Hampshire, per The Hill.
“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 told AP News on March 7. At that point in the fiscal year, 762,383 people had been apprehended while illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
New York Congresswoman Claudia Tenney warned of the increasing severity of the northern border crisis in January.
“[We’ve seen] an over 846% surge since last year of illegal crossings, and this includes a lot of different types of drugs, exotic drugs like ecstasy, fentanyl, other illicit drugs, human trafficking, and human smuggling,” Tenney, a Republican, told Newsmax on March 5. “This is happening and it’s continuing to go on because no one’s paying attention.”
Tenny is one of 15 U.S. Representatives who have backed Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs’s resolution to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for failing to secure the nation’s borders.
“As we progress deeper into winter and continue to address the ongoing pace of illicit cross-border traffic, the level of concern for the lives and welfare of our Border Patrol Agents and those we are encountering — particularly vulnerable populations — continues to climb,” said Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia in a statement on Feb. 12. “It cannot be stressed enough: 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 incredible abundance.”
Severe weather has pummeled New England and New York with thick snow and rain this winter. Many residents have been left without power. This week’s winter storm was projected to bring snow accumulations of up to 10 inches and winds that could reach 45 miles per hour.