By Zoe Deal
While the nation’s eyes are on the southern border, a steady increase of northern border apprehensions tells another story.
Apprehensions along the Blaine sector of the U.S.-Canada border from October 2018 to February 2019 totaled 177, more than double the 78 apprehensions reported during the same period a year earlier.
At this rate, it is likely that border apprehensions in 2019 will continue a trend of growth in apprehensions seen along the 5,545-mile-long U.S.-Canada border since 2015.
The Blaine sector of the northern border stretches 252 miles – 163 miles of water and 89 miles of land ending in the North Cascades. It is one of eight sectors that secure the northern border. In 2018, the northern border saw a 42 percent increase in apprehensions from 2017, totaling 4,316 apprehensions. Meanwhile, there were 396,579 apprehensions along the 1,954 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Jason Givens said there are a variety of factors that could be influencing the increase in apprehensions along the northern border.
Givens said that one of the primary reasons is “a false perception that crossing the northern border is safer than crossing the southern border.”
This could be due to recent changes to Canada’s electronic travel authorization system, which has opened up visa waivers to people from more than 50 countries including Mexico and Romania. Visa exemption allows travelers to fly into Canada without a visa, though they must still go through a screening process.
Instead of joining thousands of people waiting at the southern border, migrants may feel it’s easier to travel to Canada first before attempting to enter the United States illegally, Givens said.
While the southern border is staffed by almost 17,000 border security agents, slightly more than 2,000 northern border patrol agents cover a great distance of open border, with the border sometimes consisting of just a line of flower pots.
But Givens said enhanced border security operations through improved information sharing and “domain awareness” have allowed CBP to function efficiently.
“As America’s frontline border agency, CBP is responsible for securing America’s borders against threats, while facilitating legitimate travel and trade,” he said. “To do this, CBP has deployed a multi-layered, risk-based approach to enhance the security of our borders while facilitating the lawful flow of people and goods entering the United States.”
Thousands of sensors along the border are equipped with motion detectors and cameras which alert nearby border agents of illegal crossings. In the Blaine sector, the number of staff has stayed around 300 for nearly a decade.
Givens also said CBP utilizes technology and partnerships to detect cross-border incursions. When needed, ATVs, snowmobiles, marine vessels and aircraft may be used to apprehend illegal entrants, he said.
It’s possible that attempting entry into the U.S. is a last ditch effort as Canada begins to reject claims for many asylum seekers.
“The [Canadian] government has deemed that their claim is not valid and is in proceedings to remove them from the country,” CBP division chief Dennis Harmon said to CBC. “We then have some of those people trying to effect their illegal entry into the U.S.”
For those apprehended trying to cross the U.S.-Canada border, deportation is the likely result. “It varies on a case-by-case basis; however, individuals who illegally enter the U.S. are typically processed for removal to their country of origin,” Givens said.