(The Center Square) – Border Patrol agents working in the busiest sector at the northern border are continuing to arrest human smugglers, contributing to their convictions.
Over the last nine months, Swanton Sector Border Patrol agents alone have apprehended over 4,600 foreign nationals who’ve illegally entered the U.S. from Canada from over 67 countries. Despite being understaffed, they’ve apprehended more people this fiscal year than in the last seven years combined.
Their efforts demonstrate “their resolve to hold the line all day, every day,” Swanton Sector Border Patrol Chief Robert Garcia says.
The Swanton Sector, which shares 295 miles with Canada, includes all of Vermont, six upstate New York counties and three New Hampshire counties.
In one weekend in June, for example, agents arrested 111 illegal border crossers from 15 countries. In another week in June, they apprehended 141 people from 17 countries, Garcia said. Foreign nationals are illegally crossing between ports of entry, often at night, through remote wilderness entering northern U.S. states to avoid detection. Many are single men who run away from agents before being caught.
Despite their best efforts, Border Patrol agents in the last four months reported roughly 1,000 people they could confirm who evaded capture, according to data obtained by The Center Square from a Border Patrol agent.
Agents are successful for many reasons, Garcia argues, including because of the support they receive from local residents. In the first six months of this year, agents received over 460 concerned citizen reports about suspicious activity.
“THANK YOU to all who help us secure the border, protect our nation, and reduce crime in our local communities,” Garcia said in a recent social media post.
He also regularly posts notices encouraging residents to report suspicious activity. One recent notice states, “The U.S. Border Patrol is asking people who live, work, or travel in the border areas of eastern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire for information regarding suspicious vehicles or people who may be smuggling humans, drugs, weapons or other contraband across the U.S. border with Canada.
“The information YOU provide is vital to help SECURE our border, PROTECT our nation, and REDUCE CRIME in our community. Border Security Is EVERYONE’s responsibility. 1-800-689-3362,” it read.
Border Patrol agents’ efforts are also paying off, leading to convictions in human smuggling cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York.
In one case, a Mexican citizen who illegally re-entered the U.S. last December near Champlain, New York, was recently sentenced to 15 months in prison. In 2019, he’d been convicted of assault by strangulation in Colorado and sentenced to two years in prison.
In another case, another Mexican national with a felony conviction sentenced to over 220 days in prison was processed for impending removal to Mexico, Garcia said. He was also fined over $5,100 to reclaim the vehicle he used to smuggle people into the U.S.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Mexican national who’d been illegally living in New Jersey, admitted that last October “someone offered” to pay him $1,100 “to pick up four people and bring them to New York City.” He drove to a designated location near Churubusco, New York, roughly 2.5 miles from the U.S.-Canada border, where four Mexican citizens who’d already illegally entered from Canada were waiting. Within minutes, Border Patrol agents stopped and arrested them.
In another case resulting from a Border Patrol bust last October, 12 adults were packed into a vehicle near Westville, New York, when they were apprehended.
“Human smuggling is not only a felony but extremely dangerous,” Garcia said. Both of the smugglers, living in the U.S. illegally, were also recently sentenced for human smuggling and processed for removal, he added.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, one of the smugglers, a Mexican national who was living in Illinois illegally, admitted that last October, “he rode in an SUV” with a co-conspirator “from Illinois to Constable, New York, to pick up 10 Mexican citizens who recently illegally crossed the international border from Canada into the United States.” He also admitted they “planned to drive these people to various locations inside of the United States, including Chicago, Illinois, and that he expected to be paid between $500-$1,300 per person transported.”
The smugglers were sentenced to serve one year and one day, and 13 months in prison, respectively.
Because federal sentencing for human smuggling is so lenient, the Texas legislature recently passed a bill, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law, which increases the penalty for human smuggling per violation to a minimum of five years in prison.
If the smugglers had been arrested and tried for violating the state crime of human smuggling in Texas, they could have received sentences of up to 500 years in prison.