The number of people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally through Maine spiked in 2022, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, but those increased numbers are still far lower than a surge in crossings seen at Vermont and New Hampshire’s borders with Canada.
In fiscal years 2020 and 2021, a combined 143 single adults attempted to cross the Maine-Canada border illegally and were apprehended by federal officials.
In fiscal year 2022, that number rose to 247.
In the current fiscal year, 47 single adults have been apprehended seeking to cross the border by the Houlton sector of CBP.
Although the data show a sharp uptick in attempted illegal crossings into Maine, those numbers pale in comparison to the rate of illegal crossings at the southern border.
What’s more, Maine’s increase in illegal border crossings is far smaller than similar trends experienced by border officials in Vermont and New Hampshire.
In the Swanton sector, which covers Vermont and New Hampshire, illegal border crossings began increasing sharply in March of 2022.
That month, CPB encountered 57 attempted border crossers.
In Dec., CPB apprehended 352 attempted border crossers — the highest level recorded over the last three years.
In fiscal year 2022, 847 single adults were apprehended by CPB attempting to cross into Vermont or New Hampshire illegally.
Since the start of fiscal year 2023, which began in October of last year, there have been 861 single adults apprehended attempting to cross the border.
The Daily Mail, which was the first media outlet to flagging the surprising trend, didn’t identify a cause behind the trend. But border officials who spoke with the outlet expressed concern about human traffickers exploiting vulnerable asylum seekers and putting them at extreme risk due to the cold weather.
“Swanton Sector’s greatest concern in carrying out our mission of border security is the preservation of life – the lives of community residents we are sworn to protect, the lives of our Border Patrol Agents carrying out the mission day-in and day-out in the field, and the lives of the individuals, families, and children we are charged with apprehending as they attempt to circumvent legal processes for entry,” said Robert Garcia, chief CBP agent for the Swanton Sector.
Automated cameras CPB uses to track border crossings have also captured images of adults trafficking small children across the northern border amidst dangerously cold weather conditions.
What’s driving the increase in illegal border crossings?
Experts interviewed by the Daily Mail suggested that Canadian migrant and labor policies may be driving some individuals and families to come to the U.S., where they believe it will be easier to find work without legal status.
One Indian family of four was found dead near the northern border in January of 2022 after attempting to enter the country illegally during a blizzard that saw temperatures plummet as low as -40F.
A Florida man was reportedly charged with human smuggling for his role in the family’s deaths.
Although attempted illegal crossings of the northern border are increasing, those numbers are dwarfed by the surge in illegal immigration over the southern border with Mexico.
According to CBP, the agency has measured more than 200,000 apprehensions monthly since Sept. of 2022. In Dec., the agency had more than 233k encounters with illegal border crossers, the highest level measured over the last three to four years.