Canada-U.S. border a human smuggling hotspot: RCMP
Canada-U.S. border a human smuggling hotspot: RCMP

The RCMP is warning of a surge in human smuggling activities across the border with the United States, particularly in the areas of Ontario and Quebec that border New York and Vermont. 

According to Chief Supt. Mathieu Bertrand, who oversees border policing, criminal groups are exploiting the “vulnerability” of people who want to enter the U.S. illegally and charging them thousands of dollars for the risky journey.

The U.S. Border Patrol reported a 550 per cent increase in the number of people apprehended after crossing illegally from Canada in the Swanton Sector, which covers 295 miles of land and water boundaries. 

Between October 2022 and September 2023, agents arrested 6,925 people from 79 different countries, mostly from Mexico and India. 

Just in the last weekend of November, 71 people were detained in this region.

The RCMP said it is working with its U.S. counterparts and other law enforcement agencies to disrupt and dismantle the smuggling networks. 

Despite this, the RCMP faces challenges in preventing people from reaching the border. U.S. court documents show that smugglers charge between $3,000 and $6,000 US per person and use vehicles, boats and trails to evade detection. 

The RCMP said these operations pose a threat to national security and public safety, as well as to the health and well-being of the smuggled individuals.

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is advocating for the construction of a border wall along the 49th parallel to address concerns about illegal immigration and crime spilling over from Canada. 

Ramaswamy supports this proposal following New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu’s announcement of a Northern Border Alliance Task Force to patrol the state’s 58-mile border with Canada.

U.S. authorities have charged three members of a human smuggling network that operated between Montreal and New Jersey. The network transported dozens of people across the Quebec-Vermont border for a fee, using drivers in both countries.

The alleged leaders of the operation were reportedly Jhon Reina-Perez, a Colombian residing in Drummondville, Quebec, and Simon Jacinto-Ramos, a Guatemalan living in Montreal. 

Jacinto-Ramos, wanted by the U.S., remains in Canada and is accused of coordinating the departures, pickups, and payments related to the smuggling activities.

In a separate incident, Reina-Perez purportedly utilized a Quebec-registered vehicle in New Jersey, enlisting three drivers to transport 30 individuals who had been smuggled into Vermont. Reina-Perez was apprehended in October and is currently in custody. 

The proceeds from the illicit operations were divided among network members, with occasional recruitment of additional drivers. 

One such driver, Elmer Bran-Galvez, was identified through Facebook videos he shared while driving towards the border. Bran-Galvez was arrested in June in Vermont, near the Canadian border, with four Guatemalan individuals in his vehicle.

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