Australian Woman Faces Jail for Helping Sneak Mexican Fiancé Into US

Janita Kan
By Janita Kan
August 16, 2018US News
Australian Woman Faces Jail for Helping Sneak Mexican Fiancé Into US
A Customs and Border Protection officer. (John Moore/Getty Images)

An Australian woman faces five years in jail after she was caught helping her Mexican fiance sneak illegally into the United States over the U.S.-Canada border in July, officials said in a statement.

Sarah Louise Branch, 37, from Sydney, Australia, pleaded guilty “to encouraging and inducing the entry of an illegal alien into the United States” in a U.S. District Court on Aug. 14. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Branch’s plan to sneak her fiance, Benigno Godinez-Cortez, across the border was foiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents after they searched her vehicle when she drove from Canada to the United States via the port of entry in Calais, Maine. During the search, the agents found a Mexican passport, male clothing, and photographs of her fiance.

Branch and Godinez-Cortez have been together for four years and the couple are engaged, according to court documents, reported The Australian.

“Ms. Branch initially claimed he had recently traveled by means of airline from Canada to Mexico,” the court documents said. However after border agents spotted someone crossing the border illegally, they started suspecting Branch was lying.

She eventually admitted that she had left her fiance in Canada near the U.S. border and was planning to reunite with him after he entered the country illegally.

“She then confessed she had told Mr. Godinez-Cortez that she would cross at the nearest port of entry and expected he would contact her with instructions of where to pick him up,” the court documents stated, reported the newspaper.

Border officers found Godinez-Cortez waiting in a Tim Horton’s restaurant in Calais, reported AAP.

Branch is expected to be sentenced after the U.S. Probation Office completes a presentence investigation report.

Fiancé Had 2 Prior Deportation Orders

Godinez-Cortez also pled guilty on Aug. 4 in a U.S. District Court to “unlawfully re-entering the United States.” He is also expected to be sentenced in due course.

The fiancé has also been the subject to two U.S. deportation orders, one in 1994 and another in 1996, reported The Australian. He had also been previously charged with battery and assault but it is unclear if the matter proceeded to prosecution.

This case comes at a time when the Trump administration is pushing for stronger enforcement of border protection laws as thousands of illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America, continue to unlawfully cross the southern border.

The U.S. Border Patrol was born in 1924 with around 450 agents, mostly on mounted patrols in Texas. In 2003, the agency became part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of Homeland Security. CBP takes care of the 328 ports of entry throughout the country (airports, international bridges, waterways), while Border Patrol polices the spaces in between for illegal activity.

Charlotte Cutherbertson contributed to this report

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