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The United States has another border crisis – with Canada

A US-Canada border crossing and monument.

A US-Canada border crossing and monument.


Former Republican nominee hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy was mocked for his proposal during one GOP debate to build border walls with Mexico and Canada.

The problems at the southern border are well-documented. In January, US Border Patrol reported 124,200 encounters with migrants trying to enter the country illegally – and that is a 50% drop from previous months. It is an issue that may cost Joe Biden the election: A Pew Research poll suggested 80% of those surveyed think he is doing a bad job at handling the migrant influx.

Less well-known is that northern border states like Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire are reporting their highest rates of illegal migration in years. Canada is seen as a stepping stone to the US by human smuggling organizations – and it has the added benefit of no border walls or razor wire.

In 2023, roughly 7,000 migrants were arrested for illegally entering the US from Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick – a number higher than the last 12 years combined.

Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia, who patrols the Swanton sector, the 295-mile section of rough border terrain that separates New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire from Canada, tweeted that between April 28 and May 4 there were 492 apprehensions – the same as the whole of 2021.

Erik Lavallee, a US Border Patrol Agent, told CBS News that multiple organizations are using Canada to smuggle individuals to the U.S. Those arrested come from 66 different countries, including India, Haiti, Venezuela, and Mexico.

While less dangerous than the southern crossing – Biden is expected to tighten access to asylum there with new regulations as soon as today – the northern border is not without its perils. Ten migrants died from drowning and hypothermia coming through the Swanton sector.

Lawmakers seem to have been caught flat-footed by the explosion in numbers.

When Biden visited Ottawa in spring 2023, he signed a deal with Justin Trudeau to update the Safe Third Country Agreement that allowed either country to turn back asylum-seekers at unofficial border crossings, on the basis that Canada and the US are “safe” countries for refugees and they should apply where they land. However, this was designed to close a loophole that saw 40,000 migrants a year cross from the States into Canada at the infamous and unofficial Roxham Road crossing in Quebec and hand themselves over to the first border agent.

Policymakers do not yet appear to have woken up to this latest surge of illegal migrants heading in the other direction.


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