NEW YORK: A New York cab driver has been fined US$2,500 for swindling migrants fleeing Donald Trump’s America by over-charging for 30-minute taxi rides to the Canadian border, officials said Wednesday.
Christopher Crowningshield from upstate New York charged vulnerable customers up to US$300 for a trip that would normally cost US$50-75, said state attorney general Eric Schneiderman.
A flood of asylum seekers have entered Canada from the United States since Trump was elected president.
According to the Canadian government, federal police intercepted 1,860 border jumpers in the first three months of 2017.
One route was from Plattsburgh, New York the last public transport stop before the border.
Migrants then took a cab from the bus station for a 24-mile (38-kilometer) journey to the small town of Champlain and walked across a stream into Canada.
In addition to the US$2,500 fine, Crowningshield must ensure that customers are quoted fares ahead of time and charged no more than US$77.50 for trips from the Plattsburgh bus station to the border, Schneiderman said.
“It’s no secret that we’ve seen intense fear in immigrant communities across New York in recent months. To take advantage of that fear for financial gain is simply unconscionable,” he added.
Crowningshield, who owns Northern Taxi, was caught red-handed after charging an undercover investigator US$200, Schneiderman’s office said.
Two other firms were also fined — C & L Taxi agreed to pay $900 and Town Taxi and Medical Transport, Inc. $350, Schneiderman said.
In a less than two-day period at the end of February and early March, more than 70 people walked across the stream into Canada from Champlain, according to a tally by AFP and local police — among them Haitians, Colombians and Muslims.
Migrants sought to request asylum in Canada in the wake of Trump’s first travel ban, which sought to block visa-holders from seven Muslim majority countries and over fears that US agents would step up deportations of the undocumented.