British family deported after ‘accidental’ U.S. border crossing

U.S. officials deny it was mistake, release video of vehicle crossing into Washington from Langley

This June 22, 2018, photo shows the Berks County Residential Center in Bern Township, Pa. (Bill Uhrich/Reading Eagle via AP)

A British family that made an unauthorized crossing from B.C. into the United States was deported Wednesday after nearly two weeks in federal custody, ending an ordeal that family members called the worst of their lives.

The extended Connors family, which includes four adults, twin toddlers and an infant, had been held at a detention centre in Berks County, Pa. They’ve since been returned to England, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

Eileen Connors, 24, has said she and her family mistakenly crossed the border into Washington state, at the Aldergrove/Lynden crossing, while trying to avoid hitting an animal in the road, and were swiftly taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol. Connors’ affidavit said family members were subsequently incarcerated in a series of cold and dirty immigration facilities and “treated like criminals” as they waited to be sent home.

The family said it had been vacationing in the Vancouver area.

U.S. officials have asserted the family crossed the border on purpose, saying their vehicle was observed “slowly and deliberately” driving through a ditch to cross into U.S. territory in Blaine, Wash., on Oct. 2. The travellers also had more than $16,000 CAD and a small quantity of marijuana, and two of them had previously been denied entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The agency said border agents tried returning the family to Canada, but Canada refused. After making two attempts to contact British consular officials, the border patrol said it turned the family over to U.S. immigration officials for removal proceedings.

Family representatives blasted the border agency’s response Wednesday.

“We are not surprised that the agency would put the character of non-citizen victims of their misconduct and neglect into question to justify their actions. This is CBP’s typical response to accountability. However, their communication in no way contradicts the family’s account that for a brief moment they turned into an unmarked road on United States soil,” said a statement from Aldea — The People’s Justice Center.

The family had been detained at the Berks County Residential Center outside Reading, Pa., since Oct. 5. In her affidavit, Connors described a frigid facility with dirty, malfunctioning bathrooms and uncaring, negligent staff.

Her complaints have been echoed by other detainees at the Berks facility, one of three family detention centres in the U.S. that hold children and parents who are seeking asylum or who entered the country illegally. Activists have long called for the detention centre’s closure.

READ MORE: British couple, vacationing in Vancouver area, detained in U.S. after ‘accidentally’ crossing border

U.S. immigration officials have said the Berks centre “has an outstanding track record.”

An email seeking comment from British consular officials in New York was not immediately returned.

– with a file from The Peace Arch News

Michael Rubinkam, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Seniors Advocate calls for better oversight in care home industry

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

‘Laff’ on International Women’s Day with a lineup of female comedians in Chilliwack

All-female comedy show I Am Woman! Hear Me Laff! returns to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Application deadline extended for 2020 Canada Summer Jobs program

Funding is available for small businesses, not-for-profits and public sector employers to hire youth

Man, 36, identified as victim of Abbotsford’s first homicide of 2020

Body of Michael Ray Day was found on Keeping Road on Feb. 15

Last desperate call for Chilliwack Flight Fest volunteers and sponsors

Organizers say anyone who wants to help should attend March 11 volunteer drive, or it’s lights out

VIDEO: Wet’suwet’en supporters vow to keep protesting at B.C. legislature

Supporters say they will continue ongoing action to hold government accountable

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

Cypress Mountain offers free lift tickets March 13 in honour of snowboarding pioneer

Jake Burton Carpenter invented the sport of snowboarding

Trucking company fined $175K for Kootenay creek fuel spill

Decision handed down last Friday in Nelson court

White Rock man says landlord ‘threatened’ tenants for seeking cash after no heat over Christmas

Porte Realty VP says original notice was harsh and quickly replaced

Most Read