MN Border Patrol agents see uptick in illegal crossings between Canada in 2023

MN Border Patrol agents see uptick in illegal crossings between Canada in 2023
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 3:59 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 26, 2023 at 11:04 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - According to Border Patrol agents in Minnesota, so far in 2023 they have seen as many illegal crossing attempts as there were in all of 2021.

They are patrolling a majority of the border; Minnesota shares a 547 miles border with Canada, plus an open shoreline on Lake Superior.

Minnesota’s border with Canada may be beautiful to visit, but it can be a difficult place to patrol.

“From the tip of the Arrowhead region, all the way to the border with North Dakota is basically wilderness and very, very small rural communities,” said Agent Adalberto Rodriguez, a Border Patrol Agent in Grand Marais.

So far in 2023, he said he has had 86 encounters with people trying to cross the border with Canada illegally, and that is an uptick from previous years.

“We have had cases of crossing in the rural areas, but they are less likely to attempt to cross in those areas. It’s mostly close to populated areas,” Rodriguez said.

He said smugglers can intermingle and blend in with local populations before moving across the border, and it is not just people getting smuggled.

“I’ve seen an increase in money, money seizures, and also working on some cases where weapons are heading north,” Rodriguez said.

In International Falls, Police Chief Michael Kostiuk hasn’t seen an increase in border crossings, but that doesn’t mean smuggling doesn’t pose threat to the community.

“We see a lot of ancillary crimes associated with the border, drug traffic, things of that nature,” said Kostiuk.

According to Kostiuk, to tackle the problem the answer may not be more police officers on patrol, but coordination with other law enforcement programs.

“To be realistic, I think that just leaning on those community ties, as well as strengthening our relationship with the different agencies can only improve our mission and goal,” Kostiuk said.

For Agent Rodriguez and Border Patrol, the coordination extends beyond federal and state law enforcement organizations.

“We have a lot of partnerships, other stakeholders, even NGOs that help us mitigate a lot of the threats,” Agent Rodriguez said.

In terms of people illegally crossing into the country over water, Agent Rodriguez said Border Patrol monitors sections of Lake Superior with a 27-foot safe boat and uses canoes to patrol rivers and lakes close to the border.