The woman from Ghana who was found dead near the Canadian border had lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years on an expired visa, customs officials say.
Mavis Otuteye, 57, came to the U.S. from Ghana in 2003 on a tourist visa. U.S. Customs Public Affairs Officer Kris Grogan said that visa lasted three years and when it expired in 2006, she stayed.
Otuteye's body was found in a ditch near the tiny border town of Noyes, Minn. — an area that has become a common pathway for refugees seeking asylum.
A preliminary autopsy report says she died of hypothermia.
If she had tried to go to Canada through a legal port of entry she likely would have been turned away, because the Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the U.S. requires refugees to claim asylum in the country where they first arrive.
Grogan said Otuteye would likely have been turned away at a legal port of entry.
"In this event, if we would have had an encounter with this individual, the individual would have been arrested and placed into removal proceedings at that point," Grogan said.
Otuteye's death remains under investigation.