The border by the numbers

The border by the numbers

Hundreds of thousands of people cross the U.S.-Canada each year including tourists, truckers and asylum seekers. We visualize some of the available data on these crossings to help tell the story of America's long and busy northern border.
Published: May 30, 2019 | Updated: May 20th, 2020 at 6:05 pm

Arrests at the eight busiest northern border crossings have generally declined from 2000 to 2016, the most recent full year for which data is available.

The U.S. shares a 5,525 mile border with Canada – including a 445 miles stretch here in upstate New York.

The Buffalo, New York, border crossing is among the busiest on the northern border, and is also consistently among the Top 8 northern crossings in terms of arrests, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection compiled by the data site Kaggle.

From 2007 to 2013, Buffalo had more arrests at its border crossings than any other port of entry from Canada into the United States. Grand Forks, North Dakota, held that distinction in 2014 and 2015, while Detroit topped the northern border crossings in the arrests category in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.

Canada welcomes asylum seekers from all over the world, including the United States. In fact, nearly 5,000 American citizens sought asylum in Canada from 2015-2018, as shown in the above visualization that uses data from the Open Canada data portal.

You can read the story about people crossing into Canada from the U.S. to claim asylum at a remote northern New York crossing here.

During that period, Canada saw the largest number of asylum seekers from Nigeria at about 17,000 during the three-year period. The next most frequent place of citizenship for those seeking asylum in Canada is Haiti at just under 10,000 for the period.

One of the home bases of The NewsHouses’ Borderlines reporting trip, Cornwall, Ontario, briefly hosted Haitian asylum seekers.

Note that the “other countries” category is made up of asylum seekers from several other countries that individually have fewer asylum seekers than those on the list.

When Americans seek asylum in Canada, their first point of entry is most often Quebec, according to data from Open Canada.

Overall, there has been a spike in Americans seeking asylum in Canada since President Trump’s election, although that seems to be leveling off.

Ontario is the next most frequent point of entry for American asylum seekers, and other data shows that Ontario and Quebec are the most likely places for asylum seekers from any country to be resettled.

Those provinces are also by far the most populous overall in Canada. Nearly 39 percent of Canada’s 37.3 million people live in Ontario, according to the 2019 estimate from Statistics Canada, the Canadian national statistical agency. Quebec has another 23 percent of the population, followed by British Columbia, which is a distant third at 13 percent.