Why is there a surge of migrants at the northern U.S. border?

Between last October and January 31, crossings at one part of the northern border skyrocketed to historic highs.
Posted at 8:34 PM, Mar 14, 2023

Under the cover of darkness, with temperatures falling to -4 F, a father and mother bundled their eight-month and two-year-old children in blankets and coats; and trudged through snow and ice in a desperate attempt to reach the United States. 

But they were arrested in an area known as the Swanton Sector, which encompasses Vermont and some parts of New York and New Hampshire. 

Between last October and January 31, crossings in the sector skyrocketed nearly 850%, reaching historic highs. 

Oftentimes, families cross with young children and in some cases, apprehensions turn into rescues as migrants are found dying of hypothermia.  

CBP data shows most of the migrants coming in from Canada are from Mexico. 

Since 2020, the U.S. has expelled millions of Mexican migrants under "Title 42" a pandemic-era policy that allows border officials to bypass the asylum process at the U.S.-Mexico border and send migrants back to their home country.  

So some are flying to Montreal or Quebec legally to then attempt crossing into the U.S. It’s a different story on the U.S. side, but with the same goal of finding a new home. 

Asylum seekers in shelters in New York City are heading north by tax-payer funded buses. Scripps News met Edgar Santana at a shelter at the Brooklyn cruise terminal. 

Razor wire is strung along the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas

Barricades set up at bridge to stop crowd of migrants at US border

A large group of migrants was pushed back after rushing the the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday.


After coming from Venezuela five months ago, he’s considering a journey to Roxham Road, an unofficial crossing point for migrants hoping to enter Canada. 

"I need to help my family back home. If I don’t have a job, how can I help my family and myself here?" Santana said.  

Migrants all over the world have taken the risk like the Patel family. According to Canadian officials, they flew to Toronto from India last year in search of better work and better education for their two small children.  

They paid a smuggler to take them through the North Dakota border, but a blizzard separated them from their group. They were discovered five days later, frozen to death just 13 yards away from the United States.  

Kathryn Siemer, who leads North Dakota’s Pembina Border Patrol Station, was devastated by the Patel family’s tragedy. 

She told the Winnipeg Free Press this year human-trafficking networks are still active around the North Dakota border as the demand for crossings keeps smuggling routes open. 

She also believes the surge may be in part to loosening COVID air-travel restrictions, making it easier for migrants to fly to Canada.   

As for the Swanton Sector, chief patrol agent Robert Garcia says his station is also strained by the swell of legal entries, which has made it easier for people to slip in illegally. 

NBC News reports two dozen more border agents from the southern border will head north to deal with the surge. 

As for asylum seekers like Edgar Santana, they say the decision to go north is one they have to consider. 

"If I find a job, I'll stay. If I don’t, I’ll have to go," Santana said. 

For now agent Garcia has this warning for migrants thinking of attempting the dangerous trek: "Don’t risk it."