For the U.S. Border Patrol Detroit Sector, the ongoing challenges of the mission are always present. For more than 22 years, Patrol Agent in Charge Matt Donaldson has worked to guard our borders.
"Since I've been in Detroit, I've seen everything from canoes, to swimmers, to small inflatable pool toys," says Donaldson.
The commanding officer has personally witnessed people going to great lengths to enter into our country illegally.
"They're willing to jump in the water, very frigid temperatures, bad currents, dangerous situations and swim," he says.
Working together with the RCMP, his agents recently arrested and charged six people accused of sneaking into the U.S.
The Polish nationals allegedly arrived in Michigan illegally by sailboat. Donaldson says, "They make false claims they are just here for the day. They're not from Canada and make attempts to conceal their true identities, etc. The U.S. Border Patrol nationwide and even the Detroit Sector arrests people from 120-130 countries every year."
People from Israel, India, Poland, Ireland and other countries are often entering into Canada, then trying to cross into the U.S.
In the area of Lower Lake Huron, the St. Clair River, and Lake St. Clair, the waters see men, women and children sometimes fleeing religious persecution and human rights violations. In extreme cases, the smuggling can be part of a larger human trafficking operation.
"Boats are a constant threat. Boats, vessels, canoes, any watercraft of waterborne entry. Crossing the border is the beginning of the misadventure for them," says Donaldson.
A high tech camera system from Port Huron to the Renaissance Center is now also helping stop smugglers transporting guns, drugs and other contraband. Some of whom, have made it across the border in as little as 3-5 minutes. Then, when the water freezes, agents are up against yet another challenge.
"It becomes a different type of threat. Foot traffic. Snowmobiles. ATVs. Anything that can effectively cross ice," says Donaldson.
Facing federal charges, those who get caught are often deported or face prison time based on their criminal backgrounds.
"Once we begin processing the person we have access to their criminal history. Their warrants, anywhere else," says Donaldson. He adds, "The Detroit sector has 400 agents patrolling 863 miles of international border.
They've seen hundreds of people attempt to illegally cross the border each year. Not so long ago, a Mexican citizen who entered Canada attempted to cross the river on a basketball as his only form of floatation."
Donaldson says some routes being used are the same ones dating back to prohibition.
Today, agents continue to rely on the public's assistance more than ever. The U.S. Border Patrol Detroit Section can be reached at (800) 537-3220.
Wednesday at 11, Simon Shaykhet goes behind the scenes with the U.S. Border Patrol as they work to fight against illegal immigration.