Developer Jailed On Immigration Charges After Swimming To The US

An independent games developer is in custody and charged with violating US immigration law after allegedly swimming the Detroit River, which forms the US-Canadian border, to gain entry to the country. UPDATED

Sam Smolders (pictured), creator of the role-playing game Victim of Xen, was found by border agents around 2am on Thursday, soaking wet on a boardwalk in Detroit. The Detroit Free Press reports that Smolders told agents he was from Arizona and that he'd jumped into the river to retrieve his bag after being accosted by three men who threw his belongings into the river.

Smolders' bag was found to be wrapped in waterproof material, according to the agents' report. He refused medical attention, said his identification was left in a hotel room, then said he wanted to go to the nearest hotel to get out of his wet clothes, preferring to lodge at one that cost "one hundred euros". Border agents ran a background check and discovered Smolders' Belgian citizenship and the fact he'd been refused entry to the U.S. in 2008. A search turned up a Belgian passport with a Canadian arrival stamp dated the day before.

Update: Smolders disputes the Detroit Free Press account and tells Kotaku "I'm not a Belgian Citizen and am a US Citizen." He says that the Belgian passport was issued to him incorrectly by the Belgian government and that his allegiance is to the US, the country where he grew up.

Smolders was profiled in March by Develop magazine, in which he described the creation of his game under hardships that included homelessness, poverty, and being effectively stranded in a country where he didn't speak the language, though it was the place of his birth. Smolders told Develop he had moved to the US with his mother when he was five years old, living here until he was 18.

Around that time, Smolders told Develop that he was informed that improper immigration paperwork meant he would be classified as an illegal immigrant on his 18th birthday. He left for Belgium, and returned to the US for short periods before being refused entry in 2008 and ever since. Smolders also said his mother was arrested in Arizona, her property confiscated, and then deported to Belgium.

Smolders told Develop that he eventually gave up trying to resolve his immigration status with the United States, choosing to put his earnings from factory jobs into the development of Victim of Xen. Smolders noted, however, that "there's no game industry out here [in Belgium], it's all in the UK and in Germany as well."

Smolders and a team of 13 unpaid volunteers completed Victim of Xen, which was published in early January by Big Fish Games. It was listed on Steam Greenlight a month before.

Belgian man jailed after alleged attempt to enter US via the Detroit River [Detroit Free Press via Develop] Deported, homeless, moneyless: An indie's story [Develop]

Picture: Sam Smolders' Facebook page.


    That is one interesting story. Poor guy. Living his entire life in a country only to be kicked out at the age of 18 due to what appears to be no fault of his own.

    Can we import this guy to Australia? We have some form of a gaming industry!

    Last I checked Belgium was part of the EU, which means he can pretty much live and work where he wants over there (i.e, UK or Germany, where the work is). I'd totally take an EU citizenship over illegal status in the US any day of the week. What an idiot.

      Not if you grew up in the US for 13 years of your childhood. The EU is pretty much foreign to him, despite being born there.

        He did mention that he doesn't speak the language, which would suck big time.

          My point is that, being of Belgian birth, he should have an EU citizenship. Which means he can live and work in the UK, where they do speak the same language. Also, they do speak English in Belgium; my best mate has been living there for the last two years and has no issues in day to day life.

    Maybe he was doing research for his next game?

    Why the fuck would you leave Canada for the USA? They give tax breaks to developers.... What an idiot. Oh and free health care, plus cunts don't shoot you in the face.

      Why the fuck would you leave Canada for the USA? They give tax breaks to developers.... What an idiot. Oh and free health care, plus cunts don't shoot you in the face.


        its not far - check out this map - canada is right across the river, with the border in black down the middle of it,-83.035698&spn=0.242625,0.528374&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=65.047864,135.263672&hnear=Detroit,+Wayne,+Michigan&t=m&z=12

          It's not the distance.... it's the DESTINATION!

    Maybe he should have swum to WA. The ln after hes looked after burn down the center and riot, then bitch about how terrible aus human treatment is.

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