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Man arrested for allegedly helping to smuggle nine people across Canadian border in Pittsburg, NH

New Hampshire and Canada share approximately 58-miles of border.
Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons - Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
New Hampshire and Canada share approximately 58-miles of border.

A man from Brooklyn, New York, is facing federal charges for allegedly helping to transport nine people who illegally crossed the New Hampshire-Canadian border in Pittsburg in June.

According to newly unsealed court records, Royal Canadian Mounted Police alerted U.S. immigration agents around 10 p.m. on June 13 that they had spotted a group of people with backpacks crossing the border near Halls Stream Road in Pittsburg, which runs parallel to the Connecticut River and international boundary.

Approximately 30 minutes later, a resident of Halls Stream Road called law enforcement regarding an unknown white SUV parked in his driveway on a sparsely traveled stretch of the road. According to court records, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents located the vehicle, allegedly driven by Abraham Hernandez, 27, and found nine people inside, none of whom had proper paperwork to enter the country.

A photograph included in an affidavit shows people contorted in the trunk, their bodies intersecting like puzzle pieces.

According to immigration officials, eight of the people in the vehicle said they were from Mexico, while a ninth person said they were from Guatemala. According to court paperwork, at least two of the people who allegedly crossed the border had been in Canada for less than a month, while a third person told authorities they had been in Canada since February.

 Map showing Halls Stream Road in Pittsburg, New Hampshire
Google maps
Halls Stream Road in Pittsburg, New Hampshire - which runs parallel with the international border with Canada.

The group told authorities they had paid between $3,000-$5,000 to be smuggled across the border, coordinating their arrangements through Facebook and WhatsApp. At least one person said they intended on traveling to California for work.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Swanton Sector office, which enforces immigration laws in parts of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, did not immediately respond to a question about the current location of the people detained.

Jane Young, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire, said in an interview Friday that she was also unable to share information about the status of those in the vehicle.

Young praised the partnership between Canadian and U.S. immigration officials, and stressed that her office would continue to enforce all federal laws.

“We work closely with the authorities on the Canadian side, especially with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” said Young. She added her office will “continue to do everything we can to thwart this activity.”

Hernandez, who is from Brooklyn, New York, was released by a federal magistrate and will be indicted later in July. His attorneys from the federal public defender's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said this was the first arrest on smuggling-related charges in at least the last 14 months.

Cars with U.S. license plates enter Canada at the Stanstead, Quebec, border crossing as seen from Derby Line, Vt., Monday Aug. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)
Wilson Ring/AP
/
AP
Cars with U.S. license plates enter Canada at the Stanstead, Quebec, border crossing as seen from Derby Line, Vt., Monday Aug. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

It comes as the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and Border Patrol square off in a lawsuit over the release of immigration arrest data. The Swanton Sector has previously issued press releases detailing a staggeringrise in arrests in its jurisdiction, but the agency has declined to release state-specific data, which the ACLU is now suing to obtain.

Top New Hampshire law enforcement officials, as well as Gov. Chris Sununu, have called for more resources to enforce the state’s approximately 58-mile long international boundary. The issue became a point of contention during budget negotiations earlier this year, with some lawmakers questioning the need for $1.4 million to enhance patrols in the northern reaches of the state, when there was no publicly available data to support claims of increased crossings.

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Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.

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