The Downside to Declining Apprehensions on the Southern Border

With its brutal winters during which temperatures often plummet below zero, Maine likely does not sit atop the destination list for most Americans this time of year. But recent arrest reports show that cold weather is not at all a deterrent to illegal aliens.

On December 29, border agents apprehended a Honduran illegal alien who’d been deported on multiple occasions since 2013. It was the seventh arrest in a week by Fort Fairfield sector agents. Two days later, agents detained three foreign nationals, two of whom had orders of removal deportation and a third who’d overstayed his visa.

A little more than a week into 2020, Border Patrol agents arrested six Mexican nationals, one Honduran national, and a Dominican and took custody of the 17.5 grams of powdered cocaine, fraudulent Social Security cards and fraudulent immigration documents they had in their vehicle.

It is certainly welcome news that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported that December was the seventh consecutive month of reduced apprehensions along the southern border. However, the heightened focus on enforcement along the Mexican border in recent years has led to the Northern border becoming a de facto safety valve for illegal aliens, as well as human and drug traffickers. 

“We’ve seen a pattern of this, not only in the state of Maine, but also along the entire northern border,” Jason Schneider, deputy patrol chief for United States Border Control in Houlton, Maine, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The increase illegal activity actually reflects years-long trend of attempted crossings of the U.S.-Canadian border. In FY2018, 4,316 people were apprehended along the 5,500-mile border, which was up from 3,027 in 2017 and 2,283 in 2016, according to CBP figures. These figures obviously pale in comparison to the flow of illegal aliens across the southern border, but the trend is certainly a matter for concern, especially given the vast stretches of border where infrastructure and manpower are virtually nonexistent.

Because Mexicans, as well as Romanians, do not require visas to travel to Canada, Schneider says the Northern border holds a particular appeal for potential lawbreakers.

“It is much safer and cheaper to be smuggled across the northern border, fly from Mexico into Canada and be smuggled across the northern border as opposed to paying large fees to the alien smuggling cartel organizations along the southwest border, and it’s not as dangerous,” he noted.

The rise of illicit activity in the north is not confined to border crossings. Statistics from CBP show the amount of cocaine seized by border agents has doubled, from 45,323 pounds in 2014 to 89,207, over the last five years, while the amount of methamphetamine seized has more than doubled. In 2014, agents seized 19,613 pounds, compared to 68,585 in 2019.

The comparably small numbers of arrests and apprehensions should not be reason to continue to understaff and underfund Northern border security. Exigent circumstances required that resources and agents from the Northern border be moved to the Southern border  to deal with the historic surge last summer. But Congress and the Trump administration cannot ignore the real threats that exist in the north.

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed a Northern Border Strategy in 2018, a June 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found staffing and resource issues are hampering border security efforts, including the delay of 20 new and major construction projectsdue to lack of funding.

“It is unknown whether the staffing and resource challenges identified by CBP to secure the northern border between ports of entry will be addressed due to competing southwest border security priorities,” concluded the GAO.

Congress cannot continue to treat border security as a political issue, while the Trump administration cannot take its eyes off the “other” border.

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