Over the past two and a half years, the Biden Administration has ushered in an historic security, humanitarian, and fentanyl crisis along our southern border. Today, we see record numbers of illegal aliens released into American communities, tragic deaths from illicit fentanyl poising, an explosion of human trafficking cases, and other untold consequences to American communities. Unfortunately, what occurs along the southern border does not stay along the southern border. Instead, it impacts communities across the country, including right here in Montana. 

While the traditional media focuses on the southern border, to the extent they even cover the crisis, there are concerning trends along the northern border as well. To be clear, the raw numbers along the northern border remain small when compared to the southern border but recent surges in human trafficking, illegal narcotics smuggling, and the lack of U.S. Border Patrol agents should be a red flag.   

The number of unlawful border crossings along the northern border has exploded during the Biden Administration. Previously, monthly apprehensions of illegal aliens at the northern border were in the low thousands. However, since June 2022, the monthly number of illegal aliens crossing the northern border has tripled from previous apprehension levels, not dropping below 10,000.  For 13 consecutive months, more than 10,000 illegal aliens per month have crossed the northern border. This soon will become unsustainable if it hasn’t already crossed that threshold.

Montana is ground zero for the northern border crisis and is currently experiencing a 30% increase in illegal apprehensions this fiscal year when compared to the entirety of the northern border. Historically, unlawful border crossers were mostly Canadians, but last year for the first time, they were comprised of mostly Mexican nationals.

Aggravating the issue, the Biden Administration has redeployed Border Patrol agents from their duties along the northern border to process illegal aliens at the southern border. In July 2021, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General found that 300 agents from the northern and coastal borders were moved to the Rio Grande Valley sector of the Southern border. It is likely this number is significantly higher given the continued deployments throughout 2021 and 2022.  Put simply, these policies are leaving Montanans and other northern border communities exposed to the perils of human traffickers, smugglers, and other nefarious actors.   

In February 2023, Border Patrol assistant chief Juan Garcia called for agents to volunteer for shifts at the northern border, stating that “stations are task saturated with processing large groups, which has contributed to gotaway events, pedestrian and vehicle incursions.” Garcia was referring to the Swanton Sector covering Vermont, New York and New Hampshire, where agents were dealing with an 864% increase in illegal apprehensions, even in the cold and dangerous winter weather.

Montanans have also suffered the consequences of the open northern border as fentanyl seizures have reportedly increased by 11,000% from 2019 to 2023. At least 10 Montana counties have reported a spike in fentanyl poisonings as well.

The potentially lethal dose of fentanyl is only two milligrams¾less than a gram of sugar. The Mexican drug cartels have recognized that the northern border is largely unmanned and are rerouting some of their fentanyl trafficking. Along with drug smuggling, the cartels are also known for human smuggling and trafficking of migrants, keeping them in debt by charging thousands of dollars for passage across the border. Often, migrants are promised transportation, housing, or a way to send money home, but they end up exploited and abused.

Just last week, three illegal aliens were arrested as part of the local Montana authorities' latest human trafficking operation, in which they also seized fentanyl and other illicit drugs. One of the illegal aliens had already been deported twice. If the borders were secure, it would keep both innocent American citizens and migrants out of the hands of cartels and bad actors. No law-abiding American should be victimized by an individual who has unlawfully entered our Nation.

Today’s border crisis is preventable. It simply takes leadership and the willingness to implement deterrence policies, allow law enforcement to enforce immigration law, and secure our border. The Biden Administration inherited a successful playbook from the Trump Administration that contained effective and proven strategies to secure the border. It’s time to choose the safety and security of all Americans over the political agenda of the Left. 

Chad Wolf is the former acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and current Executive Director and Chair of the Center for Homeland Security & Immigration at the America First Policy Institute.


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