Death at the northern border (Updated)

Four migrants are found dead in a blizzard. The suspected human smuggler is released without bond.

The southwestern U.S. border gets all the attention, but Minnesota’s northern border is also the scene of human smuggling activity.

U.S. border agents reported last week that they rescued five migrants in a blizzard outside of Humboldt, Minnesota. The Indian nationals were part of a larger party totaling eleven.

Tragically, four died in the snow on the Canadian side of the border. The wind chill at the time was -40 degrees.

One American was arrested and charged with smuggling. Two other Indian migrants were with him in a passenger van (rented at MSP airport) on the American side when he was arrested.

KEYC-TV and the Associated Press report that the human smuggling suspect from Florida was released without bond by a federal judge in Minnesota. Apparently, our Jamaican-born Florida man is most recently from the Daytona Beach area.

(Update: Canadian authorities have named the family of four who died. For their part, the Canadians are promising an “aggressive” investigation. Their work was made much more difficult when the U.S. released from custody the sole suspect. U.S. authorities are moving to deport the seven survivors. It turns out that winter is a popular time for the northern border crossing. The UK Daily Mail has an in-depth article, tracing the story all the way back to India.)

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) maintains an office in Grand Forks, North Dakota, with jurisdiction along the Canadian border with Minnesota and North Dakota. Despite the harsh winter climate in the sector — with significant snow and frequent below-zero temperatures — the area sees a surprising amount of activity.

The southern border with Mexico still gets the most resources and attention, and for good reason. Data released today indicate that border agents encountered more than 2 million migrants along the southern border in calendar year 2021.

And the surge continues into 2022. Today, Fox News aired footage showing large numbers of single, adult-male migrants being put into taxi cabs in Brownsville, Texas, and sent to the local airport for distribution around the U.S.

This practice of putting newly arrived migrants on commercial airplanes sparked a bruhaha last week when the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) revealed that illegal immigrants could use a range of documents including arrest warrants and deportation orders as identification to board commercial airline flights, in lieu of the usually required government-issued and valid photo ID.

Far fewer encounters occur along the northern border. Although the 2021 report for all CBP sectors has yet to be released, the 2020 report shows only 227 encounters for the Grand Forks sector, compared to 400,000 for the entire southwestern border that year.

Here’s hoping we don’t see a repeat of last week’s tragic event in northern Minnesota.