Illegal Immigrants Coming in Through Canada

Canada

The common image of an illegal immigrant sneaking into the U.S. involves a Latin American huddling for cover in the brush of an expansive desert. It’s hot, dry, and desolate. Perhaps they are attempting to swim across the Rio Grande as it meanders through the dusty climes of the southern U.S. or jump a fence in the middle of the night. There is a different, much less publicized form of illegal immigrant—the kind coming from Canada. Many of these individuals are not Latin American—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have apprehended border jumpers from Albania, The Czech Republic, Israel, and India—and the often cross the many waterways of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York by boat, jet ski, or by swimming.

Last year, in an attempt to slow the flow of illegal immigration from Canada, CBP spent $20 million on a surveillance system that monitors 34 miles of the St. Clair River bordering Michigan and Canada—a popular destination for illegal immigrants crossing from Canada. So far, the new system has caught four human smuggling attempts. However, it is sometimes citizens who end up nabbing illegal immigrants by accident. A fishing group on the St. Clair River noticed a man in a Speedo with a backpack swimming in the river recently. CBP was alerted and the man, who hailed from the Czech Republic, was apprehended. The flow of illegal immigration across the U.S.-Canadian border is much slower than that of the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is enough to warrant enforcement. CBP agent Chris Grogan said, "People will continue to try to get in. We can't stop that. But we are doing whatever we can do to stop them. They realize that we're there, and we're going to get them."

Michigan is a particularly popular crossing point. Many lakes and rivers compose the border between the state and Canada and illegal immigrants use the rugged vastness of the terrain to their advantage. Kyle Niemi of the U.S. Coast Guard division charged with patrolling Michigan’s waterways has said, "It's a very complex system. ... You have lakes that are akin to seas—they're humongous. And then there are rivers that in the winter months you can walk across. It's a fragile system." At times, these water crossings have been deadly. A young Albanian boy was attempting to cross the Detroit River with his mother in 2005. His jet ski turned over, drowning him. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Brian Moskowitz has said, "People need to be careful. Not only do they face us, but they face some very real personal dangers."

Many critics claim that border security will do nothing to curb illegal immigration until the incentive to come to the U.S. is removed. That incentive, for most, is the possibility of employment. The sluggish U.S. economy has been responsible for a downturn in illegal immigration but many U.S. lawmakers are pushing for the mandatory use of E-Verify, a federal government database that allows employers to check the residency status and legality of someone they wish to hire. If employers could not hire illegal immigrants, many argue, illegal immigrants would have little reason to risk life and limb to come to the U.S.