At the New York-Canada border, migrants face a dangerous situation

At the New York-Canada border, migrants face a dangerous situation

By Luis Ferré-Sadurní

In the crumbling shed of a farm in the rural North Country region of New York state, the belongings of a migrant family that quietly took shelter for the night were still visible months later: some children’s clothes and shoes, already hardened due to the cold and a thin layer of snow.

Thomas Brassard He recalled his surprise when he saw the family — father, mother and two children — emerge from the shed when he started his truck early in the morning.

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They asked him in broken English if he could take them to the nearest town. Brassard apologized and told them he couldn’t help them, then called the Border Patrol, which quickly went to arrest them.

This scene has become very common in Champlain, New York, a city located on the state border with Canada; So much so, that the mayor carries knitted gloves and hats in the trunk of her car to give them to the migrants she encounters.

“The climate is so extreme, it is simply not possible to survive,” he said. Janet McFetridge, the mayor of the town. “The Border Patrol works very hard to save people’s lives, because that’s what it comes down to.”

As migrants continue to overwhelm the country’s southern border in historic numbers, a growing wave is testing an alternative route into the United States: across the least-reinforced and longest border in the United States. Canada.

Instead of suffering such a difficult journey through the Darien Gap and an almost certain encounter with the Border Patrolmigrants from as far away as Mexico, India and Venezuela who have sufficient resources have been arriving by plane to Canada, where they have the advantage that the border crossings there do not have imposing walls or fences.

However, the dangerous conditions have led to repeated rescues of migrants who are stranded in the dark forests or who have to be treated for hypothermia. Over the past two years, at least a dozen migrants — families, children, a pregnant mother — have died trying to cross and their frozen bodies have been found in rivers and forests.

The authorities of the northern border of USA They recorded 191,603 encounters with people crossing into the United States in 2023, an increase of 41 percent compared to 2022, although it is still a small number compared to the more than two million people arrested last year at its southern border.

And although the vast majority of those migrants showed up at official ports of entry to request asylum, a growing number were arrested after crossing illegally into the United States, sometimes guided by smugglers.

Last year, more than 12,200 people were arrested crossing illegally from Canada, a 241 percent increase from the 3,578 arrested the previous year. Most of them were Mexicans who can fly to Canada without needing a visa and who perhaps prefer that border to avoid the cartels that exploit migrants in their country.

This phenomenon has transformed a 474-kilometer border area along New York, Vermont and New Hampshire into an active zone for migration: nearly 70 percent of illegal crossings in 2023 occurred in this strip, known as the sector. Swanton.

Robert Garcia, The Border Patrol chief in charge of the Swanton sector noted on social media Friday that the 3,100 people arrested in that sector since October — more than the previous four fiscal years combined — came from 55 countries.

The authorities of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) of the United States noted in a statement that this country had established a close working relationship with Canada “in order to facilitate legal crossings through ports of entry and combat irregular migration, such as of the Swanton sector.”

“CBP is constantly adjusting for changing trends, while continuing to call on Congress to provide the resources and personnel necessary to maintain and improve security along our borders,” a spokesperson said in the statement.

Illegal crossings are sometimes facilitated by new human trafficking operators, almost always established outside of NYwho advertise their services on social media and charge migrants thousands of dollars to take them from Canada to the United States, often leaving migrants in debt to smugglers.

Federal prosecutors in Syracuse, New Yorkhave filed a series of cases aimed at taking down smuggling enterprises, specifying in court documents how smugglers — both Americans and foreigners — help guide migrants through the woods and coordinate drivers with out-of-state license plates. so that they can pick them up when they have already entered.

The arrests come as several migrants have died trying to cross in dangerous conditions, sometimes deceived by smugglers.

In January 2022, an Indian family of four—including an 11-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy—was found frozen a few meters from the border of manitoba, canada. A year later, they recovered in the river Saint Lawrence, Quebec, the bodies of eight people (an Indian family and a Romanian family). They were all trying to cross into the United States.

In January 2023, Fritznel Richard, 44, a Haitian traveling to the United States, was found frozen in the woods of a Quebec border municipality. The following month, José Leos Cervantes, 45, from Mexico, collapsed and died shortly after walking into Vermont.

And on December 14, the authorities found in the Great Chazy River, in Champlain, the body of a 33-year-old woman from Mexico who was five months pregnant. This woman, Ana Vasquez Flores, had traveled from Quebec and was trying to join her husband in the United States.

Shortly thereafter, U.S. prosecutors accused a Colombian living in Canada of selling his trafficking services to Vasquez Flores and her husband in TikTok and charging them $2,500 to drive her across the border via text message. The man was arrested and extradited to the United States.

Some parts of the U.S. border with Canada — which, at 8,891 kilometers, is the longest international border in the world — are separated by natural barriers, like the Great Lakes, but a good portion of it, especially in the northeast of New York, is flat and arid, with a few forests or open fields where simple stone marks determine the limit.

According to authorities, many migrants who cross illegally into the United States pass through passable forests that can still be dangerous. Temperatures are usually below 0 degrees Celsius on cold winter nights, a very dangerous cold for those who do not bring adequate clothing. In addition, there may be scattered streams, ponds and swamps in these forests that freeze very quickly.

Border Patrol officials commented that, since October 2022, they have conducted fifteen rescue missions in which they rescued 37 people along the northern border of the United States.

c.2024 The New York Times Company


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