US-Canada Border Arrest Shows Varied Human Smuggling Routes

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US authorities have arrested a Honduran national for allegedly smuggling several migrants from Central America and Mexico into the United States from Canada, highlighting a rarely seen variation in human smuggling routes amid increased enforcement along the US-Mexico border.

On October 11, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents announced the arrest of 25-year-old Honduran national Héctor Ramón Pérez-Alvarado for allegedly smuggling 15 migrants — 11 Guatemalans and four Mexicans — from Canada into the United States through Derby, Vermont along the northeast US-Canada border, according to an agency press release.

According to an affidavit from US Border Patrol Agent Matthew Palma, on October 7, authorities identified a van making multiple trips to a motel in Derby from the border crossing located on the northeast US-Canada border between the town of Beebe Plain, Québec, Canada and Beebe Plain, Vermont.

While conducting surveillance on the vehicle on October 8, US Border Patrol agents observed five individuals running south from the Canadian side of the border before presumably entering Pérez-Alvarado’s vehicle on the US side, according to the affidavit.

After following the vehicle back to the motel, agents stopped the van, which was driven by Pérez-Alvarado. They discovered six other passengers inside, all of whom did not have legal status in the United States, according to the affidavit.

The individuals in the car admitted that they had just illegally crossed the border from Canada into the United States, according to the affidavit. After believing that there might be additional individuals located in the motel room, Pérez-Alvarado provided the agents with his motel room key, where they subsequently found nine more people.

Pérez-Alvarado was charged with human smuggling, according to the criminal complaint. Two other individuals were charged with re-entering the United States after having previously been removed, according to the press release.

InSight Crime Analysis

For human smugglers and those they smuggle, illegally entering the United States from Mexico is tougher than ever before, and Border Patrol agents are allegedly capturing or preventing the vast majority of those trying to do so, according to a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report.

Indeed, the report found that 55 to 85 percent of those trying to cross the US-Mexico border are apprehended or interdicted, up from just 35 to 70 percent a decade ago. These increased efforts, and their reported success, may in part be contributing to a variation in the routes being utilized by smugglers.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Smuggling

However, it is unclear how the migrants entered Canada in the first place before connecting with the smuggler who helped them cross into the United States. Only two of the migrants had entered the United States before, which suggests that the remaining migrants would have needed to purchase false documents and a plane ticket to enter Canada.

The most recent case observed along the US-Canada border suggests that smugglers may be shifting away from traditional smuggling routes along the US-Mexico border to routes along the US-Canada border. However, experts say that the Canadian border is a source of far less concern for US authorities than the border with Mexico.

White House chief of staff John Kelly told reporters last week, “[We] don’t have nearly the issues on the northern border with Canada. Great partnerships there.”

And Randy Capps, director of research for US Programs at the Migration Policy Institute, said that the recent case in Vermont is not likely to portend a major shift in migration dynamics.

“From what we do know, it seems highly unlikely that this will be a new trend given the economic and logistical obstacles,” Capps told InSight Crime.

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