Four fatalities among several undocumented Indian nationals apprehended at U.S.–Canada border

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A U.S. Border Patrol agent sits on a horse in front of a U.S.-Mexico border wall prototype while patrolling in San Diego on Oct. 30. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker

In a tragic case leading to fatalities due to freezing temperatures, some Indian nationals were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol, and some found dead by Canadian law enforcement Jan. 19, 2022.

According to news report from The Washington Post, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they believe that the four people, whose bodies were found near Emerson, Manitoba, on Jan. 19, died of exposure in minus 31 degrees, as they were trying to cross into the United States from Canada. The four dead included an infant and a 14-year old boy.

Acting United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota Charles J. Kovats announced Jan. 20, that a federal criminal complaint has been filed against Steve Shand, 47 of Florida charging him with human smuggling.

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According to court documents, on January 19, 2022, law enforcement agents with Homeland Security Investigations responded to a request for assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) based out of Pembina, North Dakota. USBP initiated a traffic stop on a white-colored, fifteen passenger van less than one mile south of the U.S./Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry located at Lancaster, Minnesota and Pembina, North Dakota. Law enforcement asked for identification of the two e undocumented Indian nationals.

According to court documents, law enforcement discovered cases of plastic cups, bottled water, bottled juice, and snacks located in the extreme rear of the passenger van. They found receipts dated January 18, 2022, for the drinks and snacks, and rental agreement receipts in Shand’s name for the van, with the return date listed for January 20, 2022.

While Shand and the two passengers were being transported to the Pembina Border Patrol Station in North Dakota, law enforcement encountered five additional Indian nationals approximately a quarter mile south of the Canadian border walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested.

They appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant located in St. Vincent, Minnesota. The five Indian nationals explained that they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone.

The group estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours. One of the group members was carrying a backpack that did not belong to him. He told law enforcement he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals who had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night.  The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.

According to court documents, later during the day on January 19, 2022, USBP received a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that four bodies were found frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border. The dead bodies were tentatively identified as the family of four that was separated. Two of the surviving Indian nationals sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital.

Shand is scheduled for a preliminary and detention hearing, January 24, 2022,  before Magistrate Judge Bowbeer.

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