The president of the Ghanian Union of Manitoba says a 57-year-old woman who died last week south of the border at Emerson, Man., was trying to get to Toronto to visit her only child, a daughter who had given birth five weeks ago.
Maggie Yeboah said Thursday that she has spoken to the daughter, who is "not doing that well."
"She is in shock, she's devastated, she's also blaming herself," said Yeboah. "She's saying because of her, her mom decided to make this trip to come see her. I just told her not to blame herself."
The body of Mavis Otuteye was found near Noyes, Minn., on Friday, and an autopsy has suggested the cause of death was hypothermia. The Kittson County sheriff's department is investing.
The CBC reported Thursday that Otuteye, who was originally from Ghana, had been living illegally in the United States on a visitor's visa that expired in 2006. She had spent the last several years in Delaware.
The assumption of officials that Otuteye might have been seeking asylum in Canada brought the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement back into focus this week.
Refugee advocates and immigration lawyers said many refugee claimants have no choice but to cross through fields and ditches because under the agreement, they are automatically turned back at official border crossings if they have already made a claim in the U.S.
People who make it onto Canadian soil before being caught are entitled to Canada's normal refugee process. Since January, more than 2,000 asylum-seekers have walked across the border –mostly in Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia – before turning themselves into authorities.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister called on the federal government this week to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to soften his immigration and deportation policies, saying his crackdown is forcing people to sneak across the border and risk their lives.
Yeboah said Otuteye would have been one of many people "who have no choice" but to try and cross illegally.
"If you are living in the States and you are there with an expired visa, the documents that you need to apply for a visit to come through in the first place are not correct," she said.
"When you get there, they will tell you because you don't have a visa from the States, they cannot allow you to come to Canada."
Yeboah said she is urging Otuteye's daughter to talk to people in authority for help in getting her mother's body to Ghana "to give her a fitting burial. It's very sad, very sad."