As many as 10 Canadian maritime boats have been stopped over the past two weeks by U.S. Border Patrol agents looking for illegal immigrants in a disputed area of sea turf between Maine and New Brunswick known as the “gray zone,” according to a Facebook post by Laurence Cook, chairman of the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association.
Border patrol agents stopped and questioned crew on board the fishing boats in instances spanning the end of June in the area near the Machias Seal Island , saying they were “looking for illegal immigrants,” Cook said. (RELATED: What’s Up With Immigration In Congress?)
“U.S. Border Patrol was conducting regular patrol [operations] to enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law that they may encounter in the course of their duties,” a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement to NBC News Wednesday. “Border Patrol does not board Canadian Vessels in the Gray Zone without consent or probable cause and only conduct interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern.”
Currently Global Affairs Canada, the nation’s diplomatic and consular agency, was only able to confirm two instances where fishing boats were stopped, according to Canadian news outlet CBC News.
An estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants came to the U.S. from Canada in 2014, according to data by the Pew Research Center.
“Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the U.S. marine border,” the Grand Manan Fisherman’s Association said in a statement Wednesday, which was posted to its Facebook page. “The Association is working [with] the Government of Canada to ensure that our fishermen will be able to continue their fishery in a normal manner.”
The U.S. and Canada disagree on which country controls the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters.
“Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the U.S. to ensure that the area is well managed,” Amy Mills, spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada, told NBC News.
The incident is currently under investigation by both Canadian and U.S. authorities.
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