Over 960 people crossed illegally into the U.S. from Canada last year, according to data from the U.S Customs and Border Protection.

While often overshadowed in America by the coverage of the southern U.S. – Mexico border and in Canada, by the massive influx of illegal immigration into Canada from the U.S. at Roxham Road, the number of illegal border crossings from Canada to the U.S. has risen dramatically over the past year.

Most of the crossings take place in the Swanton sector, a portion of the U.S. – Canada border including the states of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire as well as the province of Quebec.

While these numbers are still quite small when compared to the activity at the southern U.S. – Mexico border, they’ve nearly doubled in the past year, going from 504 in 2017 to 963 in 2018. However, this is still about twenty times less people than the nearly 20,000 that illegally crossed the border into Canada from the U.S. last year.

Border Patrol Agent Richard Ross told NBC News that the illegal border crossing were “definitely trending up,” adding that the smugglers they were seeing are “very organized.”

Ross believes the uptick in illegal border crossings from Canada to the U.S. is caused by increase in awareness about recent immigration changes in Canada which allow people from countries like Mexico and Romania to enter Canada without a visa.

Some immigrants are betting that the journey across the Canada – U.S. border will be safer and easier than trying to cross the U.S. – Mexico border. For $300, they can buy a plane ticket to Montreal, pay a small electronic authorization fee, and make their way down to the border.

According to Ross, some smuggling agencies were “exploiting the fact that there’s an easier way to make it legally into Canada and then that provides some clientele to then be smuggled into the U.S.,” he said

However, especially during the cold winter months, the journey across the Canada – U.S. border is not as easy or safe as it is made out to be.

I’d like people to understand that this is not an easy area to cross. It’s not safe. It can be very dangerous, especially under the conditions we’re in right now, and it’s equally as difficult to cross here as it is the southern border.

Richard Ross, U.S. Border Patrol Agent at the Newport, Vermont patrol station

The problem for the RCMP is that they are not actually allowed to stop Mexican citizens from walking across the border because it was not illegal for them to be in Canada in the first place.

As RCMP Sgt. Camille Habel told CBC News in July, “The smuggling is the offence — or helping cross, that is what we investigate.”

The Trudeau government abolished the Mexican visa requirement in 2016, a move criticized by Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel at the time for being soft on security concerns.