A U.S. District judge this week ordered a Florida man to stand trial July 18 and face trial on accusations of human smuggling in the deaths of a family of four on the Canadian-North Dakota border, reports KARE11.
Authorities told the Star Tribune they arrested Shand in January as he drove a van he rented at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. They believe he had planned to pick up 11 Indian nationals intending to enter the US illegally from Canada.
Authorities found two of those nationals inside the van and five others about seven miles away. A family of four identified as Jagdishkumar Patel, 39; Vaishaliben Patel, 37; Vihangi Patel, 11; and Dharmik Patel, died after being separated from the group in freezing temperatures that hit windchills of 30 degrees below zero.
The case has drawn international attention and condemnation from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau says human traffickers took advantage of the Patels desire for a better life.
“That is why we are doing all we can to discourage people from trying to cross the border in irregular or illegal ways,” he said to the Globe and Mail. “We know that there are great risks in doing so.”
The Dickson Press reports that agents have caught Nigerians and more recently Romanians and Indians crossing into the United States from Canada.
“We’re just looking for things that look different: footprints, vehicle tracks, a torn-down fence,” said Scott Good, a chief patrol agent. “You’re really in the middle of nowhere, lots of places to get lost, no phone signal. It’s a rough, treacherous place.”
Authorities say the five nationals they found alive had been walking for some 11 hours with instructions to walk towards a natural gas plant. The group informed patrol agents that a family of four including a young child had become separated from them.
A search and rescue team set out with a search plane, a drone, and snowcats to look for them before making the gruesome discovery of their bodies.
“When you think there might be a child out there, you get angry. You feel helpless,” said Kathryn Siemer, a deputy patrol agent out of Pembina, N.D. “It just goes to show, the smuggling organizations don’t have any value of life. They’re numbers to them. They’re money to them.”
The illegal entry of Asian Indians into the United States has increased from 200 arrests in 2007 to nearly 10,000 in 2018. Most come in from Mexico, but in 2019, 339 were arrested coming in from Canada.
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