Unlawful border crossing apprehensions slow to trickle
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/04/2022 (416 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The tragic deaths of a family trying to walk across the Canada-U.S. border near Emerson in severe winter weather haven’t deterred others from attempting similar illegal journeys.
There have been at least three unlawful crossings into Manitoba from Minnesota or North Dakota since the bodies of the Patel family, including two children, were found in a snow-covered field Jan. 19.
RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Julie Courchaine said one person was intercepted in each of those incidents, which happened Feb. 23, March 3 and 23, respectively.
Meanwhile, three people — two Mexican nationals and a Canadian — were apprehended by U.S. border patrol agents as they tried to enter North Dakota in February crossings, according to data published online. Figures for March and April were not yet available.
Details about each of the incidents, including exact locations and circumstances, were not released by RCMP or U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Illegal crossings in the Emerson area have become infrequent since record numbers of asylum seekers arrived from the U.S. after Donald Trump’s presidential election victory in November 2016.
“We don’t hear or see it happening much anymore,” said Dave Carlson, reeve of the Municipality of Emerson-Franklin. “The political climate in the U.S. has changed, so we’re not seeing as many. It’s a lot more quiet on that front.”
In 2017, the year Trump took office, the RCMP intercepted 1,018 asylum seekers between land border points of entry in Manitoba, according to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.
The annual total has been in rapid decline since then, falling to 410 interceptions in 2018, 180 in 2019, 28 in 2020, and 19 in 2021. In 2022, one asylum seeker was apprehended in February, the most recent month for which IRCC data is available.
In recent years, the highest monthly number of illegal crossings has usually been in the spring months, when the weather starts to warm up.
Kelly Sundberg, a criminologist and professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, doesn’t expect the trend to change. “I would guess that enforcement, especially on the U.S. side, has really ramped up (since the January deaths).”
U.S. border patrol resources are allocated based on data to predict locations of illegal crossings, said Keith Cozine, associate professor of homeland security at St. John’s University in New York.
Illegal crossings at this time of year can be fraught with danger due to cold nights and melting snow.
There is some overland flooding in the Emerson area, where fields are wet and muddy, residents say.
Carlson said most unlawful crossings involve one or more people walking into Manitoba from the United States. It’s rare to hear of someone attempting to cross in the other direction, he added.
That was one of the surprising details when the RCMP announced almost three months ago that four bodies had been found in a field about 10 kilometres east of Emerson.
Jagdish Patel, 39, and Vaishaliben Patel, 37, their 11-year-old daughter, Vihangi, and three-year-old son, Dharmik, died trying to walk into the U.S., where they had relatives. The family was from the village of Dingucha, in India’s western state of Gujarat.
The Patels, who died of exposure, were found after U.S. border patrol agents detained seven undocumented Indian nationals near St. Vincent, Minn.
Investigators believe the Patels and the others were dropped off on the Manitoba side of the border the previous night in a -35 C blizzard, as part of a larger human smuggling operation.
An Emerson-area resident said a camera was attached to a stop sign at a rural intersection following a suspected crossing about a week before the tragedy.
The camera went up after the RCMP found footprints heading south toward the border through snow-filled fields, said the resident, who asked to remain anonymous.
The RCMP said Friday officers continue to work with authorities in the U.S. and India to track the movements of the Patels, who arrived in Toronto on Jan. 12.
Officers have travelled to the Toronto area and the U.S. state of Georgia “to advance the investigation,” spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre said recently.
A survivor told U.S. border agents the larger group had walked for more than 11 hours before they were detained, along with an alleged human smuggler, a court affidavit stated.
Deltona, Fla., resident Steve Shand, 47, has been charged with illegally bringing two people into the U.S. and illegally transporting them. His trial in Fergus Falls, Minn., is to begin July 18.
Two Indian nationals were found in Shand’s van, while five others were found on foot, the affidavit stated.
Shand, who hasn’t been charged in the deaths of the Patels, was released on bond and ordered to comply with conditions.
The seven survivors were released from custody in the U.S., and are subject to deportation proceedings.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.