Pregnant woman who died crossing into U.S. from Canada was looking for new life

Click to play video: 'Vigil held for pregnant woman who died trying to cross into U.S. from Canada to meet her husband'
Vigil held for pregnant woman who died trying to cross into U.S. from Canada to meet her husband
WATCH: Ana Karen Vasquez Flores died while trying to cross the border from Canada into the United States in December. She had been living in Mexico, was several months pregnant, and was set out to join her husband in the U.S. for a new life. As Elizabeth Zogalis reports, she was found near the now-closed Roxham Road in upstate New York two days after her husband alerted border patrol that she never showed up to their meeting point. – Jan 14, 2024

A vigil was held in Montreal on Sunday for a 33-year-old woman who died trying to cross the border from Canada to the United States last month.

Ana Karen Vasquez Flores was a young woman living in Mexico who was looking for a new life in the U.S. where her husband was waiting for her.

“She [knew about] the criminal gangs on the border between Mexico and United States,” said Hady Anne, a spokesperson for Solidarity Across Borders. “For her, it was safer to fly to Montreal and take her chance crossing the border from Canada.”
Story continues below advertisement

Vasquez Flores arrived in Quebec and paid someone to help her cross the border. She was five months pregnant.

“A guy was going to take her and took her money. We don’t really know what happened,” Anne told Global News. “The information we got is that he put her on a boat and left her there.”

Vasquez Flores was found in a river in upstate New York on Dec. 14, 2023 — two days after her husband alerted a border patrol agent that she never showed up to their meeting point.

“Closing the border is a real problem,” said Anne, alleging the area is now fertile ground for criminal gangs and human smuggling.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

A 35-year-old man has been charged in connection with the death of Vasquez Flores. Earlier this month, the attorney’s office for the Northern District of New York charged Jhader Augusto Uribe-Tobar with three smuggling-related counts.

U.S. authorities allege were seeking the extradition of Uribe-Tobar, a Colombian man who lives in Quebec and allegedly advertised his services on TikTok under a pseudonym. He charged the woman and her husband US $2,500 to guide her by text message as she walked alone across the border.

Court documents filed by New York officials in Quebec Superior Court allege that Vasquez Flores’ husband, Miguel Mojarro-Magna, had contacted the TikTok account and was told the journey to the U.S., which included crossing a waterway, could take up to three hours.

Story continues below advertisement

Vasquez-Flores would be directed across the border with her cellphone: “We do not use a guide, friend, we work in another way,” the husband was allegedly told during the exchange of messages on the social media platform.

In response to the extradition request, the RCMP arrested Uribe-Tobar at his home in St-Hyacinthe, Que., in late December. The accused appeared at the Montreal courthouse on Dec. 28 and was scheduled to return to court on Jan. 12.

Safer border policies needed

In the meantime, several organizations are continuing to call on the government to create safer border policies.

“[The government] creates these gangs, because these gangs know the law. They know if they close the border, they have a chance to make money,” said Anne.

At least 10 people, including two families, died last year while trying to cross into the United States from Canada through unofficial border crossings.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our message to the Canadian government is that we are holding them accountable for each of these deaths.” said Nazila Bettache, a Caring for Social Justice member. “Each of these deaths is on their hands and the policies they enact are responsible for them.”

The Roxham Road crossing located in southern Quebec was shut down last March after the United States and Canada closed a long-standing loophole in the safe third country agreement.

Since then, the number of crossings has decreased, but several organizations are calling for safe status and passage for all migrants, ending what they call racist and colonial immigration policies.

with files from The Canadian Press

Sponsored content