IT appears that the family of four Indian nationals who froze to death approximately 12 metres from the US/Canada border in Manitoba allegedly trying to cross the border illegally into the US on January 19 are from a village in Gandhinagar district of the state of Gujarat.
The Indian Express newspaper of India reports that Dingucha village of the local administrative division of Kalol in Gandhinagar district has become the centre of attraction with police visiting a man whose family had recently travelled to Canada and who are now missing.
Police and relatives say the descriptions of the missing members of the family — a 39-year-old man, his 37-year-old wife, and their 17-year-old daughter and four-year-old son — match those of the four individuals whose bodies were found in Canada.
The Indian Express reports that people who knew the family said they had left for Canada on visitor visas on their first visit abroad. The missing members had not been in touch with their relatives since Wednesday — the same day that the four bodies were found in Canada.
As The VOICE reported on Thursday, Steve Shand, 47, of Florida, a U.S. citizen, was arrested and charged with human smuggling on Wednesday by U.S. authorities. The U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) initiated a traffic stop on a white-colored, 15-passenger van driven by Shand less than one mile south of the U.S./Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry located at Lancaster, Minnesota, and Pembina, North Dakota. Law enforcement asked for identification of the two passengers in the van and determined them to be undocumented Indian nationals.
While Shand and the two passengers were being transported to the Pembina Border Patrol Station in North Dakota, law enforcement encountered five additional Indian nationals approximately a quarter mile south of the Canadian border walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested. The five Indian nationals explained that they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone. One of the group members was in possession of a backpack that did not belong to him. He stated he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night. The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.
Later during the day on January 19, the USBP received a report from the RCMP that four bodies were found frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border. The dead bodies were tentatively identified as the family of four that was separated. Two of the surviving Indian nationals sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital.
A Gandhinagar senior administrative officer told The Indian Express, “We have not received any official communication from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) regarding the identity of the deceased people yet. The villagers have been informed of the same.”
A police inspector told the newspaper: “A team did visit the village on Saturday and we have found that there is a family of five there, four of whom had gone to Canada leaving behind the sexagenarian grandfather. We have found out that he has now moved to Ahmedabad to stay with his younger brother.”
Amritbhai Vakil (69), a relative of the missing family, told the Indian Express: “I visited their house on Friday and congratulated the man’s father saying that his son and daughter-in-law were about to build new lives, and there was nothing to worry. He told me that he was unable to contact them. On Saturday, I heard about the dead Indian family on TV.”
REPORT ON TV9 GUJARATI
WHY GUJARATIS WOULD PREFER U.S.
Is Canada being used by Gujaratis (people from the Indian state of Gujarat) as a convenient way to illegally enter the U.S. by first coming here on tourist visas?
It is well-known that the Gujaratis in the U.S. are a highly successful business community. For example, Wikipedia states: “Given the Gujarati propensity for business enterprise, a number of them opened shops and motels [in the U.S.]. While they may make up only around 0.1% of the population in the United States, Gujarati Americans control over 40% of the hospitality market in the country, for a combined net worth of over US$40 billion and employing over one million employees. Gujaratis, especially the Patidar samaj, also dominate as franchisees of fast food restaurant chains such as Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts.”
With so many well-established business families from Gujarat in the U.S., their relatives and friends naturally see the U.S. as the most advantageous place for them.
Wikipedia also states: “The United States has the second-largest Gujarati diaspora after Pakistan. The highest concentration of the population of over 100,000 is in the New York City Metropolitan Area alone, notably in the growing Gujarati diasporic center of India Square in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Edison in Middlesex County in Central New Jersey.”