Customs, Border and Immigration News

‘Put A Pistol In Your Backpack’: Northern Border Residents On Edge Over Increased Migrant Traffic

Human smuggling cartels have set up sophisticated operations to smuggle migrants into the United States over the open border with Canada, according to a new report by the New York Post.

Amid significant attention and vigilance over migrant crossings into the United States over the international border with Mexico, cartels with smuggling operations have been leading migrants arriving by air in Canada into the United States over stretches of the border that are unmanned and unwalled. The scale of the operations influx has reportedly concerned residents of border communities the Post reported.

“The Border Patrol actually told us, ‘You guys might want to put a pistol in your backpack’ because nine out of 10 of them are just here for a better life, but there’s that one guy that’s got a rap sheet,” said Chris Feeley — a resident of Swanton, Vermont, which is located less than 10 miles away from the international border with Canada — told the Post. “The [U.S. Border Patrol] receptionists know it’s me when I call…They’re like, ‘Oh, hey, Chris, how’s it going?’ and I’m like, ‘Hey, I had some more just walk by my camera if you want to send the boys up there.’”

The number of foreign nationals who entered the United States illegally over the northern border in 2023 increased by 240% over 2022, totaling 12,200, according to the Post. Of that number, 70% crossed in the Swanton Sector, a 295-mile stretch of border north of the town.

Residents claim that they have spotted alleged foreign nationals of Hispanic and Latino descent walking through the forested areas around Swanton with mobile phones, holding them in a manner to suggest they were following a route to enter the country as pedestrians, the Post reported. Later, they are picked up by vehicles with non-Vermont license plates that ferry migrants into the interior.

“Once you see the New Jersey plates, you know they’re a getaway car. Recently, New Jersey and Massachusetts are the big ones coming to pick up the migrants,” said Kaitlynn Pease — a resident of Alburgh, Vermont, a peninsular town on Lake Champlain internally connected to the United States only via bridge — to the Post. “They’re there early in the morning when there’s no traffic. It’s normally around 6 or 7 in the morning.”

A rendezvous point for migrant encounters has been the Jolly Quick Stop gas station of which Pease is an assistant manager, the Post reported.

Moreover, migrant smugglers have become adept at spotting where U.S. Border Patrol agents are located, to avoid being apprehended. “[T]hey almost always have rental vehicles in case they get caught, so they don’t get their personal cars seized…They usually have two cars. They drive by to scope out the area to see where Border Patrol are,” said Louis, a resident of Highgate Center, Vermont, to the Post.

“The rear car stops to pick up the people while the front car goes ahead as the scout,” Louis noted.

The United States and Canada have a treaty known as the Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires that foreign nationals who seek asylum must do so in the country of their first arrival, whether the United States or Canada. Federal law empowers U.S. Border Patrol to arrest and detain foreign nationals who are unlawfully present in the United States anywhere within 100 miles of an external boundary.

However, many migrants are able to escape arrest after crossing the Swanton Sector. “Border Patrol’s not usually around,” Pease noted.

U.S. Border Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Arjun Singh

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Arjun Singh

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