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U.S. agents arrest 13 from Mexico and Vietnam trying to enter U.S. from New Brunswick

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Border Patrol agents in Maine recently arrested 13 foreign nationals — seven adults from Mexico and six from Vietnam — for illegally entering the United States from two locations in western New Brunswick, U.S. officials say.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency issued a statement Thursday saying human smuggling along the Maine-New Brunswick border may not be as big a problem as elsewhere along the U.S. border, but this “transnational criminal activity” is cause for concern.

The agency says cold temperatures at this time of year can quickly lead to life-threatening conditions.

Border Patrol officials say the suspects from Mexico were arrested on Jan. 19 after agents were alerted to a potential illegal entry and later spotted footprints near Caswell, Maine, which is west of Grand Falls in northwestern New Brunswick.

“Through investigative steps, agents confirmed that an illegal entry from Canada had been made,” the agency said in a statement. “Subsequently, agents were able to follow the footprints and apprehend the group, consisting of seven adult males from Mexico.”

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One of the accused was showing signs of frostbite and was taken to the local hospital.

Two of the accused had previously been removed from the United States after an illegal entry, the agency said.

On Jan. 20, Border Patrol agents based in Calais, Maine, pulled over a suspicious vehicle in Lambert Lake, Maine, which is west of the border crossing at St. Croix in southwestern New Brunswick.

Six adult Vietnamese passengers were accused of illegally entering the U.S., and the vehicle’s driver _ a U.S. citizen _ was detained for suspicion of human smuggling.

In both cases, the foreign nationals were each fined $5,000 and were processed for removal from the U.S.

“We may not have the large influx of illegal entries here in Maine, such as we are experiencing on the southwest border of the United States, but there certainly is transnational criminal activity occurring here,” Chief Patrol Agent William Maddocks said in a statement.

“Events like these highlight the disregard smugglers have for the life and safety of individuals they attempt to bring into the United States.”

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The first group of arrests came exactly one year after a family of four from India was found frozen to death in southern Manitoba after they tried to cross into the United States.

The bodies of Jagdish Patel, 39; his wife Vaishaliben Patel, 37; their 11-year-old daughter Vihangi; and their three-year-old son Dharmik, were found on Jan. 19, 2022, near Emerson, Man., just metres from the U.S. border.

Three men are facing charges, including culpable homicide, attempted culpable homicide, human trafficking and criminal conspiracy. Investigators have said they believe the deaths were linked to a human smuggling operation.

A week after arriving in Canada, the family was among a larger group from India that started walking to the U.S. border when temperatures hovered around -35 C. At some point, the family was separated from the group. The surviving migrants later told officers they had been walking for more than 11 hours when they were found.

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