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'Don't risk it': border patrol agents seeing huge spike in illegal crossings from Manitoba

United States border patrol agents have seen a spike in illegal border crossing attempts from Manitoba.

David Marcus, a border patrol agent in Grand Forks, N.D. said there have been 100 illegal border crossing attempts in the first six months of the fiscal year. This time last year, there had been only 22 attempted crossings.

"The biggest thing we're seeing is people are just desperate to come to the United States," Marcus said.

Marcus said in his five years with the Grand Forks sector, he has never seen this many attempts to cross the border.

Those numbers don't include the most recently reported crossing attempt that happened early Tuesday morning.

Nine people had tried to illegally cross into the United States from Manitoba near Sprague, Man. They called 911 and had to be rescued after ending up in a flooded bog, suffering from hypothermia.

READ MORE: Group crossing border called 911 suffering from cold, Minnesota sheriff says

In the aftermath of the attempted border crossing earlier this week, Manitoba's Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said there are ongoing discussions with the federal government about border security.

He said those trying to cross the border can face significant harm.

"At this stage of the year, we’re still not out of the grips of winter, so there’s risk, as we saw last year,” Goertzen said.

In late-January 2022, a family of four was found frozen to death while trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border amid severe winter temperatures.

The Patel family – Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel and Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel along with their two children, 11-year-old Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel and four-year-old Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel – had arrived in Canada weeks earlier.

RCMP believe they had been dropped off near the border at Emerson and were trying to cross on foot with a larger group of people, when they became separated.

READ MORE: Year after death of Indian family at U.S. border, those left behind try to move on

Days later, a federal grand jury indicted 47-year-old Steve Anthony Shand on two counts of human smuggling in connection to the case. The charges have not been proven in court.

Marcus said it's a tragic situation border patrol agents don't want to see again.

"Our message would be, don't risk it," he said. "It's not worth the risk of your life or your family's life."

He said the climate, which in winter months drops to excruciatingly cold temperatures, and wide-open terrain pose significant challenges. He warned people should not trust human smuggling organizations claiming to be able to get them across the border safely.

"They can't and quite frankly, they don't care about your safety anyway. All they care about is the money," he said.

Marcus said those who are caught trying to cross the border illegally are removed back to their country of origin. 

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