- The mom, dad, a teen, and an infant, were part of a larger smuggling ring including more Indian nationals.
A family of four Indian nationals, believed to be crossing into the U.S. from Canada, have been found dead, due to exposure to the brutal cold. According to news reports, bodies were discovered by The Royal Mounted Canadian Police. They first found three bodies – a man, a woman and a baby – 33 feet from the border near Manitoba – and that of a teenager, a short distance away.
The bodies were found after U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped Steve Shand, 47, of Deltona, Florida, on Jan. 19, while he was driving a 15-passenger van less than one mile south of the Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry at Lancaster, Minnesota and Pembina, North Dakota. Two more Indian nationals were found in his van.
Shand is charged with one count of “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, having transported, and moved or having attempted to transport and move such aliens,” according to a DOJ press release. He made his first appearance On Jan 20. before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, and was ordered to remain in custody pending a preliminary and detention hearing, currently scheduled for Jan. 24.
According to court documents, U.S. Border Patrol agents found five more Indian citizens, walking in the snow about a quarter-mile south of the Canadian border. They were seen while Shand and his passengers were being taken to a Border Patrol station in North Dakota. The Indian nationals, who spoke Gujarati, according to news reports, told law enforcement officials that were headed to an unstaffed gas plant in St. Vincent, Minnesota, where they were supposed to be picked up by someone, They said that they had been walking for more than 11 hours and had crossed the border from Canada into the U.S.
Describing the group, The New York Times, citing court documents said they were all wearing identical winter gear, “including fur-trimmed hoods, black gloves, black balaclavas and insulated rubber boots.” Shand had a set of “the same black gloves and the same black balaclava,” the report added.
The DOJ press release said one of the members of the group was carrying a backpack for a family of four Indian citizens who had become separated from his group during the night. The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.
According to the DOJ, Two of the surviving Indian nationals sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital. One of them was a woman, who reportedly might require partial amputation of one of her hands because of exposure to the extreme cold.
The incident has sparked reactions from Indian as well as Canadian officials. Reacting to the news, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Tweeted: “Shocked by the report that 4 Indian nationals, including an infant, have lost their lives at the Canada-US border. Have asked our Ambassadors in the US and Canada to urgently respond to the situation.”
Ajay Bisaria, India’s high commissioner to Canada, described the incident as a “grave tragedy”.“An Indian consular team is traveling today [Friday] from @IndiainToronto to Manitoba to coordinate and help. We will work with Canadian authorities to investigate these disturbing events,” he tweeted.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference on Jan 21 that his country is doing all it can stop people smuggling across the U.S. border, adding that he is “working very closely with the United States to stop smuggling and help people taking unacceptable risks,” Sky News reported.