Axios Seattle

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It's Wednesday and we're halfway to the weekend.

🌧️ Today's weather: Rain. High near 54.

Today's newsletter is 876 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Spike in human smuggling at northern border, feds say

Data: CBP; Chart: Axios Visuals

Human smuggling has become a primary focus for federal authorities in Washington state as the number of illegal migrant crossings from Canada into the U.S. reaches record highs, local officials say.

Why it matters: With so much attention on the U.S. southern border, the "historic" amount of activity on the northern border may be overlooked, Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge Robert Hammer told Axios.

  • "We need to know who is coming into the country and why and know they are not a threat," he said.

By the numbers: In fiscal year 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded 189,402 encounters at the northern border, compared to 109,535 in 2022 and 27,180 in 2021.

  • In Washington, encounters reported by Border Patrol sectors and offices in Blaine, Seattle and Spokane were 43,067 in 2023, more than double the 18,482 encounters reported in 2022. In 2021, there were just 6,032.

That "staggering" spike is of great concern, U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman told Axios, especially because of the risks to those smuggled β€” who may be dropped into the woods on foot at night, stuffed into vehicle trunks or packed in commodity shipments in a sealed freight container.

Between the lines: The boom in northern border crossings at points of entry and between them is linked to networks and smuggling organizations that can earn thousands of dollars per transported person, according to Gorman and Hammer.

Case in point: A Romanian citizen pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle this month to conspiracy to transport people who were not legally in the U.S.

  • Prosecutors allege he picked up 12 migrants in a vehicle that had seats for eight, with two children found unrestrained in the trunk.

What they're saying: "There are, no doubt, humanitarian reasons for people coming into the country," said Gorman, "but we have also seen people smuggled in to commit crimes."

What's next: The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington, HSI Pacific Northwest and Border Patrol are working to understand the increase in smuggling and prosecute the organized crime networks behind it, said Gorman.

Go deeper

2. πŸ“š This week in history: Library amnesty

Seattle Public Library books. Photo: Kevin Schafer/Getty Images

Here's a look at some of the March historical events in the city, sourced from state history encyclopedia HistoryLink and local newspaper archives.

March 26, 1970: The Seattle Public Library suspended fines for a day, and Seattleites responded by returning nearly 9,000 overdue books.

  • It was the first time the library extended temporary amnesty for late book returns and fine forgiveness, which it would offer in new forms throughout the years.
  • In 2020, SPL abolished fines altogether, saying the fines "discourage people who can't afford them from using the Library, and we want everyone in our community to have equitable access to our programs, services and collections."

March 26, 2000: The Kingdome, home of chaotic indoor fireworks and the best season the Mariners ever had, was demolished by implosion on this day, as onlookers watched a live broadcast of the ashtray-like structure caving in on itself. Farewell to an icon.

March 26, 2005: The Rat City Roller Girls, now known as Rat City Roller Derby, held their first bout at Southgate Roller Rink, with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporting from the scene.

  • It was the birth of a Northwest tradition, as female athletes shepherded roller derby from its cheesy 1970s roots into a very early-2000s future, complete with a Joan Jett soundtrack.
  • "This isn't your mama's rollerama," said P-I reporter Athima Chansanchai, but rather "a legion of helmeted hellions on wheels."

Tell a historian

3. Morning Buzz: Coug goes to the Dawgs

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The University of Washington has appointed Pat Chun, Washington State University's athletic director since 2018, as the Huskies' new athletic director, replacing Troy Dannen.

  • Chun will begin his duties at UW today. (UW News)

🌭 Costco is bringing the hammer down on scofflaws who dine at its outdoor food courts without a membership. (Fox 13)

🏈 Washington State University and Oregon State University have reached a $65 million settlement with the 10 schools leaving the Pac-12. (AP)

🦺 School officials raised concerns after an unpermitted gravel yard opened near a Snohomish County elementary school, potentially exposing kids to exhaust fumes and dust, and now the attorney general and the Department of Health are getting involved. (Seattle Times)

🚲 The Seattle Department of Transportation has volunteer opportunities on several boards, including the bicycle, freight, transit and pedestrian advisory boards. Apply at theβ€―city clerk's website by April 15. (SDOT)

4. πŸ‘‹ Meet Megan!

Photo: Amanda Snyder

πŸ‘‹ Megan Burbank here, your temporary Seattle reporter. Pleased to meet you!

Why it matters: I'm stepping in for a few months while Melissa's on maternity leave.

πŸ—žοΈ If my name is familiar, it's probably because I've spent a decade working in Seattle (and Portland) media. I love writing about our little corner of the world.

🩰 When I'm not chasing stories, I'm usually at the ballet barre, watching (and savagely mocking) "The Bachelor" with my friends or hanging out with my high-maintenance senior cat, an exotic shorthair named Luna.

🌲 I grew up in Seattle, but have also lived in Portland, and I'm always looking out for neighborhood coffee shops and dives with Old PNW vibes (and probably a rusty Oly logo in the window).

Let me know if you know of any, and thanks for trusting me with some of your morning news!

πŸ”₯ Clarridge is contemplating renting a flamethrower to burn out huge patches of weeds. She welcomes your thoughts.

🌹 Megan is still emotionally processing Monday night's "Bachelor" finale.

🍼 Melissa is on maternity leave.

Editor's note: Yesterday's Morning Buzz item on pet day care permit suspensions has been corrected to show that Public Health β€” Seattle & King County will make permit suspensions data available online later this year but has not done so yet.

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Egan Millard.