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The human smuggling network on the Canada-U.S. border has been well known in some circles and occurred periodically over the years. It has recently been brought to the forefront of news media following the tragic death of eight migrants- four of whom were Indian nationals- in March of this year after they attempted to cross the St. Lawrence River. On Friday, Brampton, Ont., native Simranjit (Shally) Singh, 41, pleaded guilty in a U.S. federal court to a total of six counts of alien smuggling and three counts of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling.
Singh’s plea agreement included an admission that he arranged to fly people from India to Calgary, Toronto, Montreal before transporting them to Cornwall, Ont before taking them across the St. Lawrence River through Akwesasne by boat. Reports state that Singh boasted he had smuggled at least a thousand people over the border.
It is important to note that this case is not directly connected the March tragedy. However, there are similarities in Singh’s routes and tactics, and those used by the sufferers’ smugglers. The plea revealed Singh’s use of vulnerable members of the Akwesasne community, such as those facing poverty and addiction. Singh would charge between $5,000 to $35,000 per person to smuggle mainly Indian nationals into the U.S., then pay locals between $2,000 to $3,000 per person to take them across the river.
One of the more comical aspects of this case is that Singh’s plea is likely filled with false boasts and hyperbole. Singh’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, suggested that client was likely exaggerating when he said he had smuggled 1,000 people over the border. Kindlon argued that Singh was just one of many cogs in a much larger system.
Sentencing for Singh has not yet been determined but he faces a potential prison sentence of between five to fifteen years as well as deportation to India. Evidently, the danger posed by the system of human smuggling is still very much present today, as well as the plight of the vulnerable Akwesasne community members are exploited by it. This case serves as a grim reminder of the human cost that is paid in order to bring people across the border in the search for a better life