Cartels took ‘advantage’ of northern border holes when agents went south: Stefanik

Northern Border Asylum
RCMP officers stop people as they enter Canada via Roxham road on the Canada/US border in Hemmingford, Que., Saturday, March 25, 2023. (Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press via AP) Graham Hughes/AP

Cartels took ‘advantage’ of northern border holes when agents went south: Stefanik

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A top-ranking House Republican said her upstate New York district is bearing the brunt of a budding illegal immigration crisis at the Canadian border.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, blamed the Biden administration’s response to the southern border crisis, wherein federal police have encountered noncitizens trying to enter the United States illegally more than 5 million times since 2021, for leading Mexican cartels now to try out smuggling across the northern border.


“Joe Biden’s failure to deal with the southern border has had huge security impacts on the northern border,” Stefanik said during an interview with the Washington Examiner. “Because of this surge on the southern border, we’ve had border personnel and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers transferred over and over again to the southern border. That left the northern border without the resources we need and the manpower, and what has resulted is the cartels, unfortunately, have taken advantage of that.”

The relocation of several hundred Border Patrol agents on the northern border to the southern border left the Canadian border vulnerable, and criminal organizations that profit from moving people and drugs into the U.S. took notice, Stefanik said.

“The cartels are paying attention to where our border does not have the resources we need,” Stefanik said, citing information she said regional Border Patrol officials shared with her during a meeting several weeks earlier. “We had previously, obviously, seen significant cartel activity on the southern border, but the fact that they’re now focused on the challenges on the northern border — that is very concerning to me.”

Mexican citizens are not required to obtain a visa to enter Canada, making it possible for immigrants with cash to fly north and then head into the U.S. Once in Canada, some immigrants choose to attempt to enter the U.S. through a port of entry. Immigrants denied entry at the ports could attempt to cross illegally between those ports — where the Border Patrol agents patrol.

The 5,500-mile northern border stretches nearly three times as long as the 1,950-mile Mexico border. Border Patrol agents are stationed from Washington state to Maine but by far fewer numbers than on the southern border.

Publicly available U.S. Customs and Border Protection data only go back 15 years but shows that Border Patrol agents encountered 2,856 people since the start of fiscal 2023 last October through February 2023. The highest annual number of northern border arrests was just shy of 8,000 in 2008. Arrests have ebbed and flowed between 900 to 4,410 each year since then, which makes the first five months of this year of concern to Stefanik.

In particular, the New England region has seen more than half of all illegal immigrant arrests on the northern border. Border Patrol agents stationed across the northernmost part of upstate New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire apprehended 367 noncitizens who crossed in January 2023 — more than the previous 12 Januarys combined.


By February, 418 illegal immigrants were arrested in that same border section, known as the Swanton Sector. Monthly arrests have stayed over 300 since October and could further rise.

Stefanik admitted that the hundreds of arrests per month in the region were far from the more than 50,000 arrests seen in southern border regions at certain points over the past two years but warned that not resolving the situation at the southern border would leave the northern one vulnerable and easy to exploit given its lack of major border wall.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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