As migrants illegally enter the US from Canada at historically high levels, US officials have begun flying migrants apprehended at the northern border south to Texas.
To date, at least two flights — one March 13 to Harlingen, Texas and another March 21 to El Paso — have departed from Plattsburgh, New York, carrying a total of 82 migrants who have been displaced under the Covid ban that is known as Title 42. a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection told NBC News.
The flights were first reported by Reuters.
The flights come as the number of illegal border crossings in the Swanton sector of the US border, which spans New Hampshire, Vermont and part of northern New York, has risen over the past five months to nearly 10 times its level in the same time period. last year, according to data from the CBP.
From October 1 to February 28, around 2,000 migrants were apprehended illegally crossing the border in the Swanton Sector, compared to just 200 crossings in the same period last year.
According to border officials and local law enforcement, most of the migrants crossing the Swanton sector come from Mexico. The two repatriation flights registered in March contained only one migrant, a Colombian, who did not hold Mexican nationality.
NBC News previously reported on the growing number of Mexican migrants traveling to the northern border on visa-free flights from Cancun and Mexico City to Canada, then crossing the land border into the U.S. on foot, often with the help of human smugglers or “coyotes.” Migrants of other nationalities, including Haitians and Guatemalans, have also attempted to enter the US from Canada south.
Local law enforcement and residents of high-traffic areas such as Clinton County, New York, said they would like more help from the federal government to deal with migrant foot traffic. Some migrants had to be rescued and treated for frostbite after walking through the often snow-covered forest along the border.
“Responding to the daily calls we get from people knocking on doors in the middle of the night, in storage sheds and garages, that makes it very, very difficult,” said Clinton County Sheriff David Favro. “And that puts a strain on our resources. So we could definitely use more bodies.”
Earlier this month CBP sent 25 additional agents, some from the southern border, to the Swanton Sector.