US authorities say Border Patrol agents in Maine recently arrested 13 foreign nationals – seven adults from Mexico and six from Vietnam – for illegally entering the United States from two locations in western New Brunswick.
The US Customs and Border Protection agency issued a statement Thursday saying human trafficking is not as big a problem at the Maine-New Brunswick border as it is elsewhere at the US border, but that “transnational criminal activity” is a cause for concern.
The agency says freezing temperatures at this time of year can pose a life-threatening risk.
Border Patrol officials say the suspects from Mexico were arrested on Jan. 19 after agents were alerted to a possible illegal entry and subsequent footprints were seen near Caswell, Maine, north of -West of Grand Falls in western New Brunswick.
“Through investigative steps, agents confirmed that an illegal entry was made from Canada,” the agency said in a statement. “Subsequently, agents were able to follow the footprints and apprehend the group, which consisted of seven adult males from Mexico.”
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One of the accused was showing signs of frostbite and was taken to a local hospital.
The agency said the two accused were earlier deported from the US after illegal entry.
On January 20, Border Patrol agents based in Calais, Maine, stopped a suspicious vehicle in Lambert Lake, Maine, just west of the border crossing at St. Croix in southwestern New Brunswick.
Six adult Vietnamese passengers were charged with entering the US illegally, and the driver of the vehicle _ an American citizen_ was detained on suspicion of human trafficking.
In both cases, the foreign nationals were fined $5,000 and proceeded to be removed from the US
In a statement, Chief Patrol Agent William Maddox said, “We may not have the large number of illegal entries here in Maine that we are experiencing along the southwest border of the United States, but certainly here International criminal activities are taking place.”
“Incidents like this highlight smugglers’ disregard for the lives and safety of those they attempt to bring into the United States.”
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The first group of arrests came exactly a year after a family of four from India was found frozen in southern Manitoba after trying to cross into the United States.
the bodies of 39-year-old Jagdish Patel; his wife Vaishaliben Patel, 37; their 11-year-old daughter Vihangi; and their three-year-old son, Dharij, was found on January 19, 2022, near Emerson, Maine, just meters from the US border.
The three men face multiple charges including culpable homicide not amounting to murder, attempt to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, human trafficking and criminal conspiracy. Investigators have said they believe the deaths were linked to a human trafficking operation.
A week after arriving in Canada, the family was among a large group from India that started walking towards the US border when temperatures hovered around -35 degrees Celsius. At some point, the family was separated from the group. The surviving migrants later told authorities that they had been walking for more than 11 hours when they found them.
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