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By Sylvia Longmire
Columnist, In Homeland Security
A significant amount of U.S. media and government attention is currently being paid to the immigration crisis along the southwest border. There is a violent drug war being fought in Mexico and gang violence is overwhelming governments in Central America.
Border Patrol apprehension numbers along the southern border are usually in the hundreds of thousands every year. With only a few thousand apprehensions annually, our northern border with Canada is uneventful by comparison. However, the impact of the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” border security policy is being felt there as well.
Illegal Drugs from Canada More of a Security Concern than Illegal Immigrants
Security along the U.S.-Canada border is rarely covered in the media, and even less commonly debated despite the fact that only two percent of it is considered “actively monitored” by the Border Patrol. Illegal drugs like high-potency marijuana and MDMA (a.k.a. Ecstasy) come south, but usually through high-population ports of entry like Detroit and Buffalo, as well as across the Great Lakes. Migrant apprehension numbers have dropped quite a bit over the last few years from an average of approximately 7,400 in fiscal year 2010 to just over 3,000 in fiscal year 2017.
This drop is interesting because until recently, no change has been made to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Northern Border Strategy (NBS) since it was implemented in 2012. On June 12, DHS announced it was strengthening the NBS and the new version would supersede the 2012 policy.
The new NBS acknowledges that the northern border presents a limited threat compared to the southern border. However, the illicit transport of drugs and potential for terrorist threats remain as the two major security concerns.
Mass illegal immigration from Canada has never been a concern. But with all the focus on family separations along the southwest border, the impact of Trump’s new “zero tolerance” policy along the northern border is being missed.
French Jogger Arrested for Mistakenly Crossing US Border from Canada
On June 23, CNN reported that a woman jogging along a Pacific beach accidentally crossed the U.S. border from Canada and ended up detained in Washington state. The 19-year-old from France was visiting her mother when she went jogging just south of White Rock, British Columbia, in May, and mistakenly continued jogging into Blaine, Washington.
Unfortunately for the French citizen, she went jogging without her passport or other identification. U.S. Border Patrol arrested her on May 21 and transferred her to an immigration detention center in Tacoma, according to Carissa Cutrell, public affairs officer with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stated, “It is the responsibility of an individual traveling in the vicinity of an international border to maintain awareness of their surroundings and their location at all times to ensure they do not illegally cross the border.”
Three days after the jogger’s arrest, U.S. authorities received her identity documents. However, it took more than a week for Canadian and U.S. immigration officials to agree that she could return to Canada. She was in detention for a total of two weeks.
Canada Closely Monitoring US Border Situation
The mandatory family separation portion of the “zero tolerance” policy has been rescinded, but border crossers are still being referred by Border Patrol for criminal prosecution. Meanwhile, the Canadian government is closely monitoring the U.S. southern border situation “to determine if the U.S. remains a safe country for asylum seekers,” according to CBC News.
Canada’s 14-year-old Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) with the U.S. requires that migrants crossing the northern border make their refugee claims in the first “safe” country they come to, whether it’s Canada or the U.S.. In 2017, 1,929 asylum seekers were turned back to the U.S. at official border points under the STCA.
Asked by CBC News on June 18 if Canada can still consider the U.S. a safe country in light of the new policy, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau, chair of the cabinet committee on U.S. relations, said, “Of course we can.”
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