Northern border tragedy warns of new, unfamiliar immigration wrinkle for Canada, U.S.

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Published January 22, 2022 at 3:25 pm

PEMBINA, N.D. — The discovery of four people who perished in the cold trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border could put a new twist on the immigration debate in the United States. 

The group, which included an infant and a teen, were found Wednesday near Emerson, Man., just metres from the Canadian side. 


U.S. officials allege they were part of a larger group of Indian migrants trying to cross into the U.S. from Canada.

Border expert Kathryn Bryk Friedman, a University at Buffalo law professor, calls it a troubling sign that the country’s immigration challenges are getting worse. 

Friedman says the discovery is likely a “warning shot” that more people are willing to put their lives on the line to enter the U.S., even on foot in the dead of winter. 

Florida resident Steve Shand is to appear in court Monday in Minneapolis to face human smuggling charges.

“I do think it’s a warning shot,” said Friedman, who remarked about the enduring appeal life in the U.S. seems to hold for people all around the world. 

Indeed, the crush of South American migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border has become a defining characteristic of American politics in recent years, most notably during the tenure of former president Donald Trump. 

Nor is Canada a stranger to the problem: thousands of asylum seekers crossed the border in Quebec each year while Trump was in office, though the numbers have dropped precipitously since then. 

But an organized effort to sneak groups of people into the U.S. from Canada is a new one on Friedman. 

“It just demonstrates the allure still — maybe the enduring allure — of trying to get to the United States. It’s really kind of fascinating,” she said. 

But a single incident isn’t likely to prompt either country to seriously rethink the way they manage and defend their shared frontier, she added.  

“This sounds terrible, but I think it’s going to take more than four people dying at the border to really galvanize action on the part of Canada and the United States.” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2022. 

The Canadian Press

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