Border Patrol Announces Firearm Seizure in North Dakota

Earlier this month, 67 abandoned firearms were seized near the town of Neche on North Dakota's northern border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday, just hours before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee met in Grand Forks to discuss border security.

Early on the morning of May 15, Border Patrol agents responded to reports of suspicious activity and located two individuals attempting to flee into Canada. Agents found three backpacks containing a total of 65 handguns and two rifles, as well as various firearm paraphernalia.

Patrol Chief Scott Garrett said in a statement that the seizure was an “unusual event” in the area but “a humbling reminder of how critically important our mission is.”

The announcement came as the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Integrity, Security and Immigration Enforcement held a public hearing on border security issues in Grand Forks.

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Attorney General Drew Wrigley said during his testimony that the number of illegal border crossings in northern North Dakota that resulted in arrests increased from 548 in fiscal year 2020 to 4,444 in fiscal year 2023. And participants from the House and local law enforcement agencies discussed claims of an increase in drug trafficking and “potential threats of violence.”

Much of the hearing was spent denouncing the federal government's immigration policies, with some emphasis on President Joe Biden's rollback of Trump-era immigration restrictions. Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California, chairman of the subcommittee, spent some time asking panelists to share their thoughts on previous conflicting statements by FBI Director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and asking whether they “would be willing to help a future administration tighten border security restrictions.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, the only member of the House from North Dakota, told those in attendance he was grateful for the opportunity to bring to the forefront a community that is “lost in this discussion about immigration policy and its impacts.” Armstrong is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, but not the subcommittee that held Wednesday's hearing.

“The whole fabric of the community is changing, and these are some of the greatest small towns — and when I say small towns, I mean small towns — in the entire country,” Armstrong said. “It really affects everyone in the farming community, everyone in the small communities, every little sheriff's department on the northern border that is diverting resources to do a job that should really be done by the federal government.”

Armstrong is running against Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller in the Republican primary to become governor of North Dakota. Miller did not immediately respond to a Tribune request for comment on Wednesday's hearing.

Anna Harden

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