LISBON, Maine – Border Patrol agents in Lisbon have uncovered what federal immigration officials called an “elaborate human smuggling scheme,” leading to the removal of 17 undocumented non-citizens from an alleged stash house.
Federal immigration officials said the individuals were living illegally in the U.S. and working illegally for an unidentified company in Massachusetts.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection says its agents have encountered more than 100,000 individuals crossing the southern border illegally every month since February 2021. In December alone, CBP reported 251,978 encounters with inadmissible visitors. That’s the most illegal border crossings CBP has ever reported for one month, according to the available data.
The migrants, hailing from Nicaragua and Guatemala, highlight a growing trend of undocumented non-citizens transiting in and out of the State of Maine, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said in a press release.
The discovery took place on March 21, 2023, when agents from the Rangeley Border Patrol Station conducted a follow-up investigation based on information provided by the Lisbon Police Department. The investigation, initially related to a hit-and-run accident, led agents to a house in Lisbon where the 17 undocumented non-citizens were found.
William J. Maddocks, Chief Patrol Agent of the Houlton Sector, emphasized the importance of apprehending those entering the country illegally to protect local communities and the nation. He also stressed the need to prevent criminal activity from going unchecked, stating that “immigration law violations are no different, and criminal activity without consequence is not in our community or national interests.”
“U.S. Border Patrol will continue to protect our local communities here in Maine and the U.S. as a whole by ensuring those illegally entering the country are apprehended,” said Maddocks.
It was determined that the undocumented non-citizens were employed by a Massachusetts-based company that had rented the house to provide them with accommodation.
“We are seeing a sharp increase in the flow of illegal labor in and out of Maine,” Maddocks said. “Housing 17 people in one house is unsafe and degrading.”
He also noted that the exploitation of undocumented populations would persist as long as there are no consequences, vowing to continue issuing civil penalties, fines, and seeking federal criminal prosecution through the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The migrants were transported to Rangeley for processing.
During this process, it was discovered that two Guatemalan individuals had re-entered the United States after being previously removed, a felony crime punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison.
Four undocumented non-citizens were found to have already entered the United States illegally along the southwest border and were in removal proceedings. They were subsequently released to await immigration proceedings.
The remaining subjects from Nicaragua and Guatemala were entered into removal proceedings under Title 8.
The Lisbon Police Department did not respond to an inquiry about their role in the removal operation.
The U.S. Border Patrol action comes one month about seven Guatemalan foreign nationals were detained in Rockland on the suspicion that they were involved in an organized criminal operation that has targeted Home Depot locations throughout Maine.