AKWESASNE, N.Y. (AP) — Six Indian citizens who tried to enter the United States illegally and didn't know how to swim were rescued from a sinking boat in northern New York, federal court documents stated.
A seventh individual, a U.S. citizen who made his own way to shore from the sinking boat, was charged with human smuggling and is being held pending trial.
The rescue happened April 28 in Hogansburg, New York, near the Canadian border after an off-duty police officer from Cornwall, Ontario, spotted a boat containing multiple people crossing from Canada to the United States, federal court documents said.
Officers from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department responded and saw the vessel sinking in the St. Regis River about 30 yards (27 meters) from shore and about 800 feet (244 meters) from the international border with Canada.
While the numbers are low compared with the U.S. border with Mexico, organized human smuggling between Canada and the United States is relatively common.
Last winter four Indian migrants died in Canada not far from the border in North Dakota while they were trying to illegally enter the United States. A Florida man is due to go on trial this summer in federal court in Minnesota on a human smuggling charge related to the case.
Last month, Border Patrol agents made arrests in two separate human smuggling events in North Troy, Vermont. Also last month, Border Patrol stopped a car in Caswell, Maine, carrying five Romanian nationals.
Since the start of the pandemic, many illegal border crossers from Canada are returned to that country under Title 42, a public health measure.
In the upstate New York case, the Saint Regis police called for assistance from the Border Patrol and the Hogansburg-Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department, officials said.
The boat was almost completely submerged when the firefighters arrived, the officials said. The fire department deployed a boat to rescue the six remaining on board.
One of the Indian migrants apprehended in New York told Border Patrol agents he flew into Canada on April 21 before attempting to enter the United States by crossing the river.
The smuggler allegedly asked the migrants if they could swim. All six individuals responded “no swim,” the court documents said.
One of the migrants told agents in what is described as an “excited utterance”: “I reached Canada, an agent let me on a boat, on a boat it sunk, we were going to die, police saved us.”
Because the water temperature was just above freezing, all seven people were treated for hypothermia, officials said. There were no life jackets or other safety equipment on the boat, they said.
The six migrants were citizens of India ranging from 19 to 21 years old, CPB said. They were arrested and charged with improper entry.