Northern Ireland

Baby among Irish group detained after crossing US border

Border protection agents detained eight people from Ireland
Border protection agents detained eight people from Ireland

A one-year-old was among eight people from Ireland detained by United States federal agents after the group were accused of an illegal crossing over the border from Canada.

A total of 12 people, including four from England, were detained after two vehicles were spotted driving along a road from an unapproved crossing in a remote area of northern Minnesota last month.

Three remain in detention as they are, or were previously, subject to removal proceedings, while the others were issued with a notice to appear (NTA) at an immigration hearing. The Irish detained were aged between one and 56, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 23 Irish people were apprehended on the US border in the Covid-impacted year to the end of October 2020, the latest figures available. That was a drop from 35 the previous year and 80 in 2018.

But Irish citizens returned home or to another country from the US soared over the years of President Donald Trump’s presidency, according to an analysis of figures compiled by the DHS.

The numbers increased over the four years to late 2020, from a total of 637 between 2013 and 2016 to 1,995.

Under immigration rules, the returned are largely those who voluntarily are allowed to leave. It differs from removed, or deported, half of them after criminal prosecution, most of the rest after previously being told to leave.

The figures reveal 123 people were removed, deported, over the four years from 2017, including 17 in 2020.

A large increase was also reported in Irish citizens deemed inadmissible, those not allowed to enter or remain in the country because of criminal activity, prior removal or unlawful presence. These increased to 2,489 over the four years, up from the previous 997.

The figures have emerged as details of the detention of the eight Irish people, including the one-year-old, were revealed.

A spokesman for the agency said: "Eight individuals from Ireland ranging in age from one to 56 (five males, three females) and four individuals from England ranging in age 18 to 48 (two males, two females)" were detained.

Border patrol agents were alerted to what the agency described as a "smuggling attempt" near Grygla on September 25. An agent spotted two vehicles at a petrol station in the village of 240 people, managing to intercept one and discovered four people, three of them Irish citizens.

Following a broadcast across the area, the second group of eight were caught the following day in a town some miles south.

In August, two Irish people were detained after federal agents intercepted a boat near Miami. It was carrying nine people in total, including five Britons and two alleged people smugglers. One of the passengers was a minor.

Prosecutors claim they each paid $4,000 to be transported from the Bahamas.

  •  This article was amended on October 15