August 06, 2008

The story behind Frozen River

Here's the story behind Frozen River, the latest Native-themed movie to earn rave reviews:

Smuggled Aliens Now Cross Mohawk LandThe Mohawk Indian reservation along the St. Lawrence River here has long been called Smugglers' Alley, an easy path to sneaking contraband into or out of the United States.

In the 19th century, that meant the occasional cow going whichever way prices were higher. During Prohibition, the contraband was an endless stream of liquor to the United States, and in recent years, it has been huge quantities of untaxed cigarettes heading north.

Now, a new form of contraband is being smuggled: people. Hundreds of illegal immigrants are using the Mohawk territory as a pathway to their American dreams. This new traffic became starkly apparent on the pitch-black night of Oct. 2, when a makeshift smugglers' boat overturned, killing a Pakistani woman and, it is believed, a man whose body has not been found, as well as endangering nine other would-be immigrants from the Indian subcontinent.

These victims represent the tip of the iceberg. In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the United States Border Patrol says more than 300 illegal aliens were caught after apparently passing through the Mohawk territory, up from 130 in the previous year and 72 the year before that. And the patrol admits it is lucky if it is catching 1 of 10.

"You can about bet they've been smuggled," said Ed Duda, assistant chief of the Border Patrol's office in Swanton, Vt., which polices 261 miles of the border.

These desperate seekers, from Koreans to Poles to Jamaicans who had found it relatively easy to get visas into Canada, pay $500 to $3,000 apiece for the boat ride of less than 10 minutes from Cornwall Island, part of the Indian territory in Canada, to Indian territory on the American mainland, border officials say.

Most are bound for New York City. Some have arrangements to be picked up by limousines sent from New York by those who arranged their passage. Others wander off on their own to buses or planes. Some try to hitchhike. Some try to walk until they dissolve into America.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

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