The other border crisis

The other border crisis
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Illegal border crossings are way up this year and border enforcement officials are calling for help. Normally when you see a sentence like that you would assume we’re discussing the Mexican border. But this particular headline points to a situation on the opposite end of the country. The rate of illegal border crossings from Canada into New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont has been ten times higher than in previous years. And the small number of Border Patrol agents covering this region is being overwhelmed, along with the local Sheriff’s Departments that have been trying to help them. (NBC News)

On the snowy border between New York and Canada, the local sheriff’s office is calling for the U.S. Border Patrol to put more manpower behind what the locals call a growing crisis: The number of illegal border crossings in the area over the last five months is nearly 10 times what it was over the same time last year, and the border crossers are in danger of freezing to death.

From Oct. 1 to Feb. 28, about 2,000 migrants crossed the border between Canada and New Hampshire, Vermont and New York south through the forests, compared to just 200 crossings in the same period the previous year.

The migrants are mainly from Mexico, and they can travel to Canada without visas before they cross illegally into the U.S., often to reunite with their families.

Keep in mind that all of this has been taking place during the winter. Unlike the southern border, conditions on the Canadian border are simply brutal for anyone traveling on foot and without the proper protective clothing. NBC News reports that just last week, the local Sheriff’s crew in Clinton County, New York had to rescue 39 illegal migrants “whose clothes had frozen to their bodies.” Two Mexican women were hospitalized during the previous week after they lost their shoes in a swamp and their feet had literally frozen in the ice.

I spent a fair amount of time hunting up along the border when I was younger. The conditions there are pretty much the exact opposite of the desert areas along the southern border. There are dense forests and swamps with many rivers and streams or other groundwater. If you are up there during the winter and aren’t dressed properly (particularly in terms of footwear) you can absolutely die. And if you aren’t near one of the few roads that lead up to the border, your body may not be discovered for quite a while.

So why would more than 2,000 migrants choose to attempt the crossing this winter? It reportedly comes down to Canada’s very liberal immigration policies. Migrants are able to legally enter Canada with no repercussions and receive public assistance. So if they can afford to take a boat or other transportation to get into Canada, they can then make their way to Ontario and attempt to hike south through the woods to the United States border. That border is far less heavily guarded than the Mexican border, so it’s difficult to ascertain precisely how many migrants are doing this.

The CBP added another 25 agents along the New York border last week, but the Clinton County Sheriff said that’s simply not enough. Unfortunately, it’s not as if we can just transfer some officers from the Mexican border to address the issue because they are still completely overwhelmed down there. And building a wall is out of the question, even if the current administration would be willing to consider it. The United States and Canada share the longest land border between two nations in the world. And much of that border consists of wilderness areas far from any roads or commercial services. Short of recruiting and training more border agents, this appears to be a problem with no obvious solution available.

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