U.S. homeland security officials on Tuesday pledged to secure the border — the other border. The one with Canada, stretching more than 1,500 miles, most of which is wide open.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a strategy to improve efforts to safeguard the 1,538-mile-long border in order to defend against terrorist and criminal threats while maintaining the free flow of travelers and trade between the two countries.
Department officials said the National Border Strategy (NBS) will:
- Increase information sharing between the two countries.
- Enhance rapid inspection and screening, enforcing a fair trade environment, and bolstering border infrastructure.
- Support response-and-recovery capabilities among federal, state, local, tribal, and Canadian partners.
Brandon Judd, president of the U.S. Border Patrol Council, said the U.S.-Canada border is a great deal less secure than the southwest border with Mexico simply because the federal government devotes far fewer resources to its protection.
“The entire northern border — which is the longest border between two countries in the world — we have less officers patrolling than the Capitol Police have right now,” he said.
Judd recalled a case last year in which U.S. Border Patrol officers arrested an illegal immigrant from Mexico in Houlton, Maine. The man previously had been arrested in the United States and deported. Rather than make another run at the southwest border, Judd said, the man flew first to Toronto — without travel documents — and received a short-term visa from the Canadian government.
“He just thought he would have a better chance of escaping, so he went through Canada,” he said.
The man’s plan may well have worked if it were not for an alert hunter, Judd said. The citizen called police to report a suspicious man, and agents found him hiding two hours later.
Apprehensions of illegal immigrants near the Canadian border remain a fraction of the annual totals near the southwest boundary. The report, published Tuesday, states that known illegal crossings between customs stations have remained fewer than 800 over the past five years. In fiscal year 2016, an overall total of 415,816 people came illegally to the United States.
According to the report, about two-thirds of the illegal immigrants caught near the Canadian border came across the U.S.-Mexico border.
But Judd said with so few agents patrolling, it is impossible to determine how many illegal immigrants get through by way of Canada. He said a Border Patrol agent, at an event with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) earlier this year, put the issue succinctly: “You have to be an idiot to get caught on the northern border.”
Judd said with such intense political fireworks surrounding the flashpoint at the southern border, few people have incentive to raise concerns about the northern boundary.
“It all comes down to resource allocation,” he said. “Nobody wants to make another one of our borders an issue.”
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), said the Canadian border — whatever its holes — does not come close to the problems America faces at the southern border.
“It’s not like Mexico, where the border is controlled by the cartels,” she said.
Still, Vaughan acknowledged, illegal immigrants coming from Canada likely stand a better chance to succeed.
“Border Patrol agents have to cover a lot more territory, that’s for sure,” she said.