The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is denying the claims of a British couple who’d been vacationing in the Vancouver area and “accidentally” crossed the border.
David Connors, 30, Eileen Connors, 24, and their three-month-old son say they inadvertently crossed the border at B.C. and Washington State – while in a vehicle with at least four other family members – after detouring to avoid an animal in the road.
They said they were stopped by an officer, who told them they were in Washington State but did not read them their rights or allow them to turn around and return to Canada.
Instead, they said they were arrested and moved to a detention centre in Pennsylvania. The other family members, including a brother, his wife and their two-year-old twin girls are also being detained in the U.S. as suspected illegal immigrants.
However, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol statement this week said the Oct. 2 crossing was deliberate, and that record checks show that two of the adults in the vehicle had previously been denied authorization to come to the U.S.
Officials said the travellers also had “more than $16,000 CAD and a small quantity of marijuana, less than three grams.”
The law enforcement agency released surveillance footage – which notes the arrest occurred in Lynden, Wash. –that appears to show a vehicle slowly driving through what officials call a ditch and breaching the international boundary.
What appears to be a small animal can be seen crossing the road a short distance in front of the vehicle.
“Attempts were made to return the individuals to Canada. However, Canada refused to allow their return and two attempts to contact the consulate for the United Kingdom were unsuccessful,” the statement continues.
“The seven individuals, consisting of four adults and three children, were processed by Border Patrol and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Enforcement and Removal Operations.”
Eileen Connors compared their move to the Pennsylvania facility to “an abduction or a kidnapping.”
“We will be traumatized for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us,” she said in her and her husband’s statement.
An attorney for the People’s Justice Centre, representing the family, has filed a complaint with the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, alleging mistreatment during their detention, including “frigid” cells and inadequate clothing and blankets for their child.
U.S.authorities have denied allegations of mistreatment, maintaining that the facility “provides a safe and humane environment for families as they go through the immigration process.”
– with files from the Associated Press