DETROIT — A Canadian cab driver who made extra money by steering desperate immigrants to a railroad tunnel under the Detroit River was sentenced Monday to 16 months in a U.S. prison.
Juan Garcia-Jimenez, a 53-year-old Canadian citizen who is a native of Guatemala, wept in federal court. Besides a prison sentence, he was fined $8,680- the amount paid by nine people who were caught last year when they emerged on foot on the Detroit side of the tunnel.
The 1.6-mile (2.5-kilometer) tunnel is used by cargo trains moving between Ontario, Canada, and the United States. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Fairchild said it’s risky: A walkway is only 17 inches (43.1 centimeters) wide and in poor condition.
“They just walked right through the tunnel, which is a very dangerous thing,” said Kris Grogan, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “There is zero room. If a train would have come through there they would have been killed.”
Garcia-Jimenez would drop people off at a tunnel entrance in Windsor and drive away.
“Countless aliens could have illegally entered the United States with his assistance,” Fairchild said in a court filing.
Immigrants who were arrested on four different occasions identified Garcia-Jimenez as the man who helped them in Canada. He was arrested last August while trying to enter Detroit to celebrate his wedding anniversary.
“I am sorry for what I have done,” Garcia-Jimenez told U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III.
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