In April 2023, US Border Patrol agents and emergency responders rescued nine immigrants from a flooded bog west of Warroad, MN.
The nine men were all between the ages of 19 and 46, and seven were Mexican. All had attempted to cross into the US with the help of smugglers, who misled them about how long they would be walking.
“They were told where they were dropped off to just walk a certain direction, and it’d only be about 20-minute walk, and they would be in the United States,” Border Patrol agent David Marcus said.
Smugglers also told the men someone would pick them up on the other side of the border after this “short trip.”
It was much more than a 20-minute walk, with the migrants unprepared for the harsh temperatures. The immigrants never found anyone waiting to pick them up, and instead, they called for help after entering the bog and were later taken to a hospital for exposure injuries.
Border Patrol is still looking for a possible tenth immigrant, as it wasn’t clear exactly how many people were originally in the group.
“Both sides of the border are exhausting every effort because obviously the last thing you want to do is just leave somebody out there,” said Steven Bansbach of US Customs and Border Protection.
Smugglers Take Advantage of People Desperate to Immigrate
Deepak Ahluwalia, a Canadian-born immigration attorney representing migrants in California and Texas, said this isn’t the first time he’s heard of smugglers dumping immigrants in a remote location and leaving them with few resources.
“Smugglers often aren’t honest about the dangers involved in clandestine border crossings, and migrants may not be aware of news reports about tragedies involving crossings,” he says.
A similar situation occurred in Manitoba in January 2022 when a family of four Indians, including one infant, tragically died attempting to cross the border in a blizzard.
“I would be hard-pressed to find any individuals or families that would say, ‘I’m still going to continue this journey,’ knowing that this very route that they’re undertaking, there’s death up ahead,” Ahluwalia said in an interview.
Toronto lawyer Ali Esnaashari adds that smugglers are only concerned with the money they charge immigrants, who may be desperate to escape persecution in another country. Migrants may contact smugglers through word of mouth or online ads.
“They basically go down the rabbit hole until they find someone who says, ‘OK, I can help you.’ They don’t necessarily know who this person is. They’ve never met them. They may just have the phone number or an email address, and they’re willing to gamble it all,” Esnaashari said. “These are usually people who really don’t necessarily have knowledge of these different areas that they’re suggesting for these migrants to cross over at.”
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