By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square
Border Patrol agents working in the busiest sector along the northern border are apprehending record numbers of foreign nationals attempting to enter the U.S. illegally from Canada.
In the first seven months of fiscal 2023, Border Patrol agents apprehended and encountered more illegal foreign nationals crossing a 295-mile stretch of the Canada-U.S. border than the previous four fiscal years (FYs 2019-2022) combined, Swanton Sector Border Patrol Chief Robert Garcia said.
The sector “continues to see a record setting number of illegal entries into the U.S. with a sharp increase from February to March. 1,156 apprehensions from 33 different countries during those two months,” Garcia said.
“Our agents’ hard work and resilience are praiseworthy,” he said of those responsible for patrolling 24,000 square miles covering the U.S.-Canada border including all of Vermont, six upstate New York counties and three New Hampshire counties.
Last month, Swanton Sector Border Patrol agents apprehended 742 illegal foreign nationals and reported 142 known gotaways, those who illegally entered and escaped capture, according to preliminary data obtained from a Border Patrol agent. The agent shared the data exclusively with The Center Square on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. It only includes Border Patrol data, not Office of Field Operations data, meaning the numbers are higher.
In March, Swanton Sector Border Patrol agents reported 816 apprehensions and 371 gotaways, the highest numbers ever recorded in the sector’s history.
At the time, 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.”
Within one month, apprehensions increased to total more than the last four fiscal years combined.
The sector 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.
Border Patrol agents aren’t just apprehending people in rugged and remote territory, they’re also saving lives.
In April, with temperatures still low enough to cause hypothermia, an illegal foreign national and her 6-year-old daughter were lost in the woods near Fort Covington, New York. Using a cell phone, she called for help rather than freeze to death.
Border Patrol agents rescued the pair after the mother illegally crossed into New York about 2 a.m. and got lost in the woods. In distress, she “sent a location pin by phone, alerting agents to their location,” Garcia said. The agents responded quickly and saved their lives.
In another successful rescue last month, Border Patrol agents and Richford, Vermont, EMS/Fire crew rescued a woman who was abandoned by her male companion after illegally crossing from Canada. She was stranded “by the cold, swift-running water of the Missisquoi River,” Garcia said. Border Patrol agents found her companion and they were both returned to Canada.
The sector has increased its expedited repatriation process to return those who illegally enter back to Canada and other countries of origin. Working with El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors that have greater processing capabilities, Swanton Sector agents have repatriated 204 illegal foreign nationals to their home countries.
“Border security and national security are inseparably intertwined and directly support public safety,” Garcia said in a statement. “These removals represent an undertaking aimed toward ensuring the delivery of consequences to uphold the laws of the United States and protect every U.S. citizen. Whether you live in a border town or anywhere else in our great country, we all share in both the real and potential adverse impacts of illicit cross-border activity if left unchecked.”
Local residents and “Good Samaritans” continue to help Border Patrol agents do their jobs and Garcia continues to encourage them to report suspicious border activity by calling 1-800-689-3362.
He also said the sector “for the first time ever” is hiring Border Patrol Processing Coordinators in New York and Vermont. Those interested can apply here.
Swanton Sector apprehensions continue to increase as Border Patrol agents working in nine sectors along the southern border reported total illegal border crossings in the first four months of this year outnumbered the populations of six U.S. states.