A family of four migrants from India were found frozen to death on the Canadian side of the border last Wednesday after getting separated from the larger group of migrants they were with.
One of those who died was an infant, still in diapers, and another was a teenager, authorities said.
They were part of a group of at least 11 migrants, all from India, who were trying to cross in sub-zero temperatures near Humboldt, Minnesota. Border Patrol agents say the location has become a regular smuggling route.
Two others in the group, who did reach the U.S. and were nabbed by Border Patrol agents, were rushed to the hospital with severe frostbite. One man has been released but the other, a woman, stopped breathing several times while en route to the hospital, was revived, but will likely have a hand partially amputated because of frostbite.
The deaths are the latest in a growing body count as illegal border crossings surge under the Biden administration.
Fiscal year 2021 set a record for deaths at the southern border, but the family’s deaths this week were a reminder that the northern border can be dangerous as well.
Border Patrol agents arrested Steve Shand, an immigrant from Jamaica, who they say was the smuggling driver on the U.S. side. They found him with two of the Indian migrants in his rented 15-passenger van, and they found five other Indian migrants just down the road, headed in his direction.
One of the migrants told agents he was carrying a backpack for a family of four migrants that had become separated. The backpack had children’s clothes, diapers and toys.
Agents began a search on their side of the border and notified the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who also went searching and found three bodies — an adult male, an adult female and an infant. They kept searching and found a fourth body, which they said appeared to be someone in his mid-teens.
The family was about 40 feet from the international border.
RCMP officers searched Wednesday and Thursday for more bodies, but found nothing.
Anthony S. Good, the chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol’s Grand Forks Sector, praised the agents who braved temperatures well below zero to search for the family.
But he said the deaths, and particularly that of the infant, “makes it even more difficult.”
“Anyone thinking of crossing the border illegally in these treacherous conditions should not do it,” added Good. “Smugglers only care about the money they are going to make and have zero regard for lives lost.”
Mr. Shand, who has naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2010, rented the van at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport on Monday, according to rental records.
Agents also found another rental agreement for Jan. 10-13, and a hotel receipt from Grand Forks, North Dakota, from that earlier period.
That timing coincided with a previous smuggling incident at the same spot on Jan. 12, when a Border Patrol agent saw boot prints in the snow. The prints were all made by the same brand of boot — which also matched at least five of the migrants nabbed in this week’s incident.
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent John D. Stanley, in a court affidavit, said authorities believe a larger smuggling organization is at work.
One of the Indians nabbed this week told authorities he had flown into Canada on a fraudulent student visa, then headed for the U.S.
“He did not intend to study in Canada but rather to illegally enter the United States,” Agent Stanley said. “He had crossed the border into the United States on foot and had expected to be picked up by an individual who would drive him to his uncle’s residence in Chicago.”
The agent said the Indian migrant “paid a significant amount of money” for the bogus Canadian visa.