Surge in illegal crossings on northern border sparks congressional scrutiny

There’s another threat to U.S. border security that continues to fly under the radar. With the focus largely on millions illegally crossing into the U.S. on the southern border under President Biden, an increasing number of illegal aliens have exploited comparatively lax security on the northern border.

U.S. border agents report a significant uptick in apprehensions of individuals attempting to cross from Canada into the U.S., the longest international border in the world. The Grand Forks Herald broke down the most recent numbers.

Encounters counted by the CBP include “inadmissibles,” individuals seeking lawful entrance into the U.S. but are determined to be inadmissible, and “apprehensions,” which refers to the physical control and detainment of a person who is not lawfully in the U.S. The CBP also tracks expulsions under Title 42 of the United States Code Section 265, which was introduced in 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 across international borders. Title 42 expulsions are not based on immigration status, according to the CBP.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Data, there were 109,535 encounters at the northern border in FY 2022, up from 27,180 in FY 2021. In the first third of FY 2023 — October 2022 through January 2023 — the CBP recorded 55,736 encounters.

Of the total encounters in FY 2022, 24,454 were related to Title 42.

The increased threat along the Canadian border has drawn congressional scrutiny, leading the House GOP to form a Northern Border Security Caucus that includes Minnesota Rep. Pete Stauber and North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong.

Armstrong said he joined the caucus because the northern border is patrolled by less border patrol agents and with less resources than the southern border. Together, Minnesota and North Dakota have a combined 861 miles of international border.

“The sophistication level of organized crime in smuggling into the United States is always going to find the path of least resistance,” he told the Herald on Tuesday.

The vast majority of attempts to sneak into the U.S. have occurred in eastern states that border Canada. But the border patrol has recorded an uptick in cases along the Minnesota-North Dakota section as well.

In the Grand Forks Sector, which includes all of North Dakota and Minnesota, the CBP recorded 81 encounters in FY 2022, down from 90 in FY 2021. But, so far in FY 2023, encounters are up, with 70 recorded since October 2022.

“Our borders are virtually unprotected — they are wide open,” said Kelly at a press conference announcing the new caucus. “At some point, somebody has to help Customs and Border Patrol — they are unmanned, they are unfunded, they are not equipped to do the job we are asking them to do, but they come out every day to do that to protect us.”

…“Our porous borders are dangerous — dangerous to the families and dangerous to the victims falling to the cartels with the fentanyl use,” said Stauber.

Last year a family of four from India that flew into Canada in an attempt to cross into the U.S. perished in a snowstorm within feet of the Minnesota line.

One goal of the caucus is to draw attention to illegal crossings at the northern border before the number grows even more, said Armstrong. “We run the very big risk of only dealing with the problems in front of us and not getting in front of the potential problems coming down the pike,” Armstrong said.