Not so long ago, Jagdish Patel, a 39-year-old Indian national who was in Canada, along with his wife Vaishaliben and their two young children, aged 11 and 3, were found frozen to death in the south Manitoba, near the Canada-US border. They had been dropped off the previous evening in Emerson, a small town about 70 miles south of Winnipeg, where nighttime temperatures regularly dip below -30 degrees during the winter. They had attempted to walk a few miles through barren snow-covered agricultural fields to the United States. Their journey began earlier with a group of at least five other Indian nationals in Canada who were all dropped off at a point near the United States. They were all wearing brand new coats and gloves making the dangerous journey to America on foot, in pitch black. Only the Patel family did not succeed.
Survival in India A Challenge
According to Reuters, the victims were residents of Dingucha, a village in Gujarat, and “had suffered severe financial losses while operating a small retail store and were unable to make ends meet with their farming income. The couple felt they were struggling to manage their home and the children needed a better education. This is the reason why they left their homeland.
The family of four had left their village on January 10, 2022 with Canadian visitor visas in their passports. They landed in Toronto on January 12. When they arrived, Patel called his father and cousin back to India to let them know it was cold, but they were all fine and in a hotel. Seven days later, they were found dead near their Emerson waypoint.
Experts say it is rare for irregular migrants to travel south trying to sneak into the United States from Canada.
“We have seen this with asylum seekers going to Canada. This is the first time we hear of people who were on their way to the United States. It’s kind of hard to see why that would be the case,” Sharry Aiken, a professor of immigration law at Queen’s University, said in an interview with the Toronto Star.
According to the Star, in December 2016, two Ghanaians Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal survived the perilous journey through hip-deep snow and bitter cold, crossing from North Dakota to Manitoba via Emerson to gain asylum in Canada. The former lost most of his fingers after nearly freezing to death. Earlier, a 57-year-old Ghanaian asylum seeker died of hypothermia while trying to cross into Canada at the same Emerson border area in May 2017.
Referring to the Patel family incident, a Guardian article stated that “the standard cost for a family of four to travel to the United States is 16.5 million rupees (£164,000) – a sum staggering, especially for a rural farming community”. It’s almost 225,000 US dollars. The Guardian reported that “Patel’s father, a farmer, reportedly paid half the sum in cash for his son’s trip to the United States and the other half in the form of 20 acres of land”.
Police investigations are ongoing. They believe these deaths were linked to a network of smugglers bringing immigrants to the United States via Canada and Mexico. But there are some simple questions that can be asked about what happened and why this family paid so much to be smuggled into the United States when they could have tried other options.
On the one hand, why America? Did they have family in America? If so, could the family have sponsored them? If not, have they ever tried to visit America? They probably tried, but were refused. It seems like they probably weren’t very educated. Otherwise, there were really no good employment-based US immigration options for family there. It seems that they were ready to come to America as irregular immigrants and hoped to somehow get out of it. Perhaps they were considering applying for asylum.
What about other options?
What about Canada? After all, they were in Canada as visitors. There are some provincial nominee programs for farmers that they may have qualified for. Maybe they could have tried to get an owner/operator work visa. Maybe a Start Up visa.
There were also other citizenship-by-investment options involving countries like Antigua, for example, where for around US$150,000 a family of four can obtain citizenship within months. At least there they might have had a better start.
All of this assumes that the family had the ability to research options on their own. It’s probably an unreasonable proposition. But given what happened, one can’t help but wonder how they came to the conclusion that entering the United States through Canada was their best option. Without knowing more about their situation, it is difficult to suggest what would have been better. Whatever the details, clearly in this case the price they paid for the option they took was too high. We are all saddened by it.
Lessons to be learned
If anything, this case demonstrates that it is not enough to simply seek a better life for you and your family on the spur of the moment. Immigration is a matter that requires planning and preparation. Studying what professions are needed and obtaining credentials for those positions is essential if your intention is to work in America.
The case proves the importance of planning your transition, including things like the path you’ll take and the time of year.
A lesson that can be learned is that more needs to be done to crack down on smugglers. But we would be wrong to stop there. More needs to be done to help families like the Patels. For example, if India had an investment treaty with the United States, like Pakistan and Bangladesh, for example, Mr. Patel could have qualified for an E-2 work visa and brought his whole family with him in the United States at that time. based.
Finally, on a higher level, we are not doing well when young families like this have to risk so much to have a better life. History reminds us that much more needs to be done to make this world a better place for all of us.