- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - In recent months, the number of people crossing illegally from the eastern U.S. to the Quebec region in Canada has surged and Canadian border officials have adjusted some patrols to better deal with the influx at popular spots, officials said last week.

Patrols along the border with Vermont have not changed, however, said Cpl. Camille Habel, spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Quebec. Her agency arrests individuals it believes have crossed into Canada illegally.

Habel said the agency does not keep statistics on which U.S. states people are crossing illegally from, but she said Roxham Road in Champlain, New York, has been a popular entry point recently. A National Public Radio report highlighted this area last week, saying Quebec has seen the highest influx of people seeking asylum in recent months.

“It’s an area that’s close to many big centers and big airports on either end of the border,” Habel said.

Border Patrol agents can confront people they believe may cross the border to Canada illegally or who may have crossed from Canada to the U.S. under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection works closely with our partners in Canada including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency to ensure all crossing is conducted lawfully and orderly through official ports on entry on both sides of the border,” the agency wrote in a statement. “Consequences for crossing illegally can include incarceration, civil monetary penalties and deportation with a ban on re-entry.”

There are about eight ports at which people in Vermont can legally cross into Canada, including at the borders with Beecher Falls, Derby Line, Franklin, Norton, Richford and Swanton and several places in Alburgh.

The spokesperson said there has been an uptick in confrontations across all of the Swanton sector, which includes northeast New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. Since October 2016, U.S. border agents believe about 1,000 people in the area have crossed illegally, according to the agency. The spokesperson did not specify the typical rate for a similar time period, and attempts to reach her with follow-up questions were unsuccessful Sunday.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police typically take people they suspect are crossing the border illegally into custody for questioning. Habel said this is to find out if the person has committed any additional crimes. If officials determine no additional crimes have been committed, they bring the person to the Canadian Border Services Agency where illegal immigrants can seek asylum, Habel said.

The Canadian Border Services Agency also does not keep track of the place from which those seeking asylum come, said Jacqueline Roby, spokeswoman for Canadian Border Services Agency. Statistics from the agency show that the number of people seeking asylum in the Quebec began increasing in July 2016 to numbers not seen in the previous two years.

The agency’s statistics show that 368 people crossing from the U.S. to Quebec sought asylum in November 2016, 593 people in December and 452 this January. Between January 2014 and June 2016, the highest number of asylum-seekers in one month had been below 140 people.

Habel said patterns of illegal immigration over the U.S.-Canada border typically depend on what is happening in the world. In January, President Donald Trump signed executive orders regarding immigration, including one that temporarily bans immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.

“Right now, everyone’s talking about the African and Middle Eastern migrants, but for a while there were quite a few people from South America and Eastern Europe,” Habel said. “Whatever geopolitical situation is happening in the world, then we’ll see a rise.”

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Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com

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