AKWESASNE (WWTI) — Seven have been arrested in connection to a failed human smuggling attempt last week.
According to the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, suspicious activity was reported to the agency on April 29 regarding a boat containing multiple subjects traveling from Canada near Cornwall, Ontario into the United States.
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Police Department responded and found the vessel taking on water and sinking in the Saint Regis River in Akwesasne.
Border Patrol Agents and the Hogansburg-Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department were then notified and arrived on the scene to find the reported vessel nearly underwater.
One of the subjects reportedly exited the sinking boat and made his way to the shoreline. The Hogansburg-Akwesasne Fire Department then deployed a boat and was able to recover six subjects in distress.
Police said that due to nearly freezing water temperatures, all seven individuals were evaluated and treated for hypothermia by medical professionals. It was later determined that there were no life jackets or other safety equipment on board.
Upon their release, all seven suspects were arrested by Border Patrol agents and transported to the Border Patrol Station for processing.
According to Police, six of the subjects were citizens of India. These six individuals ranged in ages 19 to 21-years-old and were charged with Improper Entry by Alien in violation of 8 USC 1325.
The seventh subject was confirmed to be a United States Citizen. This individual was charged with Alien Smuggling in violation of 8 USC 1324.
Alien smuggling is a felony, which carries a penalty of a fine and up to 10 years in prison for each violation.
Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Chief Matthew Rouke and Border Patrol Agent Wage Laughman commented on the incident in a press release.
“Outstanding cooperation between law enforcement and rescue services prevented what could have been a horrific tragedy,” Rourke said. “I emphasize that human smuggling is illegal and poses a significant danger to the Akwesasne community. We don’t know the intentions or vaccination status of smuggled individuals, but more importantly, the time and resources spent in a rescue effort unnecessarily risk the lives of our first responders and our already strained emergency response services.”
“I commend our Tribal partners for their diligent response and preventing what could’ve been a catastrophic situation,” Laughman added. “Human smuggling is not only a crime but extremely dangerous. Smugglers do not care about safety or human life; they only care about profits.”
To report suspicious activity in Swanton Sector, which covers the land border between ports of entry in Vermont, New Hampshire and northeastern New York, call 1-800-689-3362.