The southern border has received the lion’s share of attention in recent years, but it might be time to focus attention to the northern border, as new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows that apprehensions increasing significantly.
According to CBP data, a total of 4,316 noncitizens were arrested at the northern U.S. border in fiscal year 2018 – the highest number in eight years. Between FY2017 and FY2018, total arrests at the northern border increased by 43 percent.
While these numbers are far from the hundreds of thousands of individuals crossing the southern border, the increase still causes legitimate security concerns. As we have learned on 9/11, it only takes a small number of people to cause horrific and irreversible damage to a nation. In fact, border author and professor Porter Fox suggests that “It’s generally agreed that the northern border is more vulnerable to a terrorist sneaking into this country.”
The northern border is the largest shared international border between two countries, stretching more than 5,500 miles, and is nearly three times as long as the U.S./Mexico border. With inadequate border infrastructure and pots of petunias serving as border barriers, there should be a bona fide concern whether or not the northern border is receiving the necessary resources to secure its region.
The threats posed by the northern border are very different from those posed by the porous southern border. We do not have the massive numbers of people illegally crossing the border with Canada that we see along our border with Mexico, but that doesn’t mean there is no reason for concern.
There are cooperative approaches that should be explored that serve the mutual interests of the U.S. and Canada. Options include working with the Canadian government to standardize Canadian asylum laws as well as offering more meticulous vetting procedures. In recent years, Canada’s lax asylum laws have simply become a magnet for individuals to place faulty claims and then illegally cross into the United States.
Canadian intelligence officials have warned about the presence of international terrorist organizations in that country. Moreover, the Canadian Security Intelligence Services warns that as of 2016, “Currently, there are just over 190 extremists with a nexus to Canada who are abroad and who are suspected of engaging in terrorist activity. In addition, the Government is aware of approximately 60 individuals who have returned to Canada,” and it is likely that many more Canadians who had gone to Syria to fight for ISIS have returned since then.
Clearly, the southern border is facing a more significant crisis at the moment and should remain the priority region to secure. Yet, the new CBP figures may also suggest it is time to start taking the northern border more seriously.