Greed, Not Desperation, the Primary Reason Border Crossings Have Become So Deadly

A wire fence coated in ice after a blizzard in Canada.In January 2022, four bodies were discovered frozen in the Manitoba wilderness, just a few miles north of the U.S. border. Identified as Indian nationals, the prevailing assumption is that they were dropped off somewhere near the border under the veiled promise of being able to reach the U.S. easily. The reality was much starker, and it proved fatal.

“I don’t know anyone who could be in their right mind to tell them to make this journey knowing that the mom had an infant in her hands,” immigration attorney Deepak Ahluwalia told the Globe and Mail during an interview. “It’s just sad that four people died, and they died so brutally and so tragically.”

While many are quick to judge migrant families for taking such high risks with their family in tow — and others, accurately, to point out that families would not take these risks if the stakes weren’t so high to remain in their home country — the truth is that most have been duped by criminal human smuggling operations. Promises of a guaranteed arrival and proven past results for other clients earn them families’ trust …and tens of thousands in smuggling fees.


Tragic events like the death of the entire family found in Manitoba illustrate the consequences of this grift: people, tricked by exaggerated claims and, sometimes, false credentials, end up laying everything on the line to make a trek that is far from safe or guaranteed.

“Donkey Flights” Bring Migrants Through Borders and Then Close to the U.S., Often With Fatal Consequences

Most people wouldn’t give up their life savings to hike through freezing wilderness or scorching hot deserts, but human smugglers find ways around this part of the sales pitch. Instead, it’s all business and promises of a new life. In many cases, those operating as part of a criminal network pose as fake visa agents or frame their operation as being much more organized than it actually is.

Migrants end up finding the stark reality the hard way. In many cases, it’s the last leg of the journey that’s the most dangerous. But no part is actually safe.

Called “Donkey Flights” or “Donkey USA” trips, these one-way tickets into the U.S. are pushed hard by criminal gangs in order to secure funds from desperate people looking to immigrate to the U.S. or other destinations. They even put videos on YouTube acting as tutorials and sales leads. In many cases, their clients are fleeing religious persecution or harsh economic realities. But others simply want a chance at a better life.

Even in the face of these motives, these individuals may have had second thoughts if they had known that they were paying for little more than a drop-off, where they’re then responsible for making the most dangerous journey of their entire lives.

After hopping from country to country using falsified documents or “backdoor” layover travel visa laws, these individuals are then dropped off at some of the harshest conditions imaginable.

“Just walk in that direction,” their drivers will say, without any hint of the distance or the risks. There are no attempts to make the journey safer, even to provide water or appropriate clothing.

“Some smugglers charge US$10,000 to US$50,000 per person,” the Globe and Mail reports. “Smuggling operations can be as small as five to 10 people working together in different countries.”

Families Are Often Misled or Outright Duped

Speaking to the Globe and Mail, Mr. Ahluwalia was quick to point out that victims are often scammed by individuals who make vague or overblown promises, including how easy the last part of the journey across the border will be.

“It’s so common for a smuggling agent to just say, ‘Oh, the border is right there,’” he said in an interview, “but the agent neglects to tell you that you have to walk for two days. They know that once they put you across, their job is done. They don’t really have any incentive to make sure that you end up safe.”

Seek Assistance With Our Immigration Law Firm

If you or a loved one has been caught up in the immigration system, either in deportation proceedings or other challenges, immigration lawyers at Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law are here to help. We have decades of collective experience helping tens of thousands of clients with their immigration cases. Our only goal is to help you, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

If you are interested in learning more during a confidential, no-obligation discussion of your case, contact us today.