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Increased Illicit Border Crossings Carry Higher Risk in Winter Months

SWANTON, Vt. - Between October 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022, U.S. Border Patrol's Swanton Sector recorded an approximate 743% increase in apprehensions and encounters compared to the same period the year prior. Combined apprehensions and encounters in Fiscal Year 2023 have already surpassed that of Fiscal Year 2022 and recent trends represent a sustained increase in illegal border crossings as we head into the harshest winter months.

Swanton Sector's terrain along the International Boundary with Canada includes rural and remote areas and ranges from mountains to lowland swamps. During the regional winter, which encompasses an extended season due to the sector's geographic location and weather patterns, sustained sub-freezing temperatures subject both large and small bodies of water within our area of operations to freezing over. Unpredictable storm fronts bring ice and significant snow accumulation throughout the extended winter season. These geographic and weather features can make traversing unfamiliar territory perilous. Additionally, the risk of hypothermia from sustained or even brief outdoor exposure to near-freezing temperatures in wet or windy conditions is significant.

These environmental challenges, coupled with the sharp increase in illicit cross-border traffic, generate great concern for the potential loss of human life. In recent press releases, Swanton Sector highlighted several instances of family groups and individuals rescued from cold-weather-related crises and trauma. Unfortunately, these types of events have not diminished as Swanton Sector Border Patrol continues to encounter family groups with children (aged as young as a few months old) crossing uncertain terrain in single-digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures. In many cases, Border Patrol Agents tasked with detecting, identifying, and apprehending individuals attempting to unlawfully cross the border end up rescuing them and rendering potentially life-saving aid—all while the Agents are selflessly placing themselves in harm's way. 

Many individuals seeking to cross illegally are ill-informed of the dangers and poorly outfitted for the weather and terrain they encounter in Swanton Sector. In the midst of our coldest months, January and February, the stated risks have only increased. 

"Swanton Sector's greatest concern in carrying out our mission of border security is the preservation of life—the lives of community residents we are sworn to protect, the lives of our Border Patrol Agents carrying out the mission day-in and day-out in the field, and the lives of the individuals, families, and children we are charged with apprehending as they attempt to circumvent legal processes for entry," said Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent Robert N. Garcia. "Unfortunately, the transnational criminal organizations that stand to profit from the increased flow of human traffic care only about profits and have no concern for the welfare of those whose plight they seek to exploit for financial gain," he added. 

For more on Customs and Border Protection's mission at our nation's ports of entry with CBP officers and along U.S. borders with Border Patrol agents, please visit the Border Security section of the CBP website.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the comprehensive management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection at and between official ports of entry.