Police in Lisbon, Maine, said they arrested 17 undocumented immigrants on Tuesday following an investigation involving the U.S. Border Patrol.
Lisbon police said they made the arrests around 8 p.m. Tuesday at an address on Maine Street in Lisbon Falls. The arrested individuals are from Guatemala and Nicaragua, police said.
The U.S. Border Patrol said in a statement that the building they raided was being used as part of an "elaborate human smuggling scheme." They became aware of the operation as a result of a hit-and-run crash in Lisbon on Tuesday.
The undocumented immigrants were working for a Massachusetts-based company that had rented the house to provide them with a residence. No information was released about the company's name or whether they might face any penalties.
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“We are seeing a sharp increase in the flow of illegal labor in and out of Maine,” William J. Maddocks, chief patrol agent with the U.S. Border Patrol in Maine, said in a statement. “Housing 17 people in one house is unsafe and degrading. The exploitation of the undocumented population will continue as long as there is no consequence. We will do all we can to remove the incentives that drive such exploitation, including the continued issuance of civil penalties, fines, and seeking federal criminal prosecution through the U.S. Attorney’s office for every criminal law violation we encounter.”
Androscoggin County and the Oxford County sheriffs assisted in transporting the 17 people to detention centers in Rangeley for processing. Two of the subjects were found to have re-entered the U.S. after having previously been removed. Four others were found to have entered the U.S. illegally along the southwest border and were released to await immigration proceedings. The other subjects were entered into removal proceedings.
The incident remains under investigation, the U.S. Border Patrol said.
Federal authorities added 25 border patrol agents at the northeastern U.S. border with Quebec earlier this month in response to a recent spike in illegal crossings.
Statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that agents in the sector apprehended 1,513 illegal border crossers between Oct. 1, 2022 through Jan. 31, 2023, up from 160 in the same period the year before. But the total number apprehended along the entire northern border this fiscal year, 2,227, is a small fraction of those apprehended along the U.S.-Mexican border during that same period, 762,383.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.