A British couple and their three-month-old son have been arrested in the United States after they accidentally drove across the border while on a family holiday in Vancouver, Canada.
David Connors, 30, and Eileen Connors, 24, say they swerved to avoid an animal while driving in British Columbia and ended up on an American road.
They are now being held in the Berks Detention Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania, as illegal immigrants. The couple, from London, were arrested along with David’s brother Michael Connors, his wife Grace and their two-year-old twin girls.
Attorney Bridget Cambria of The People’s Justice Centre is now representing the family and has filed a complaint with the inspector general of the US Department of Homeland Security.
She said on October 3, Michael was driving in Vancouver where the family were visiting relatives, when he swerved to avoid hitting an animal.
A lawyer for the couple believes they will be deported but said she is yet to receive official papers
Eileen Connors said in a statement that she has been ‘traumatised’ by her treatment
Michael Connors turned onto an unmarked road and moments later, multiple police cars and Border Patrol agents appeared and told him:
‘You crossed an international border’, the family claim. Ms Cambria said on Monday:
‘They had no idea they had crossed any boundary. ‘They had no idea they were even in the United States. They were just trying to get back to their hotel.’
She said it’s likely the family will be formally deported but no paperwork has yet been shared with them or their lawyers.
The family members were arrested and taken into custody near the US-Vancouver border and were told they would be released to family in the US the following day.
Instead, according to Eileen Connors’ statement, immigration officials said there was a change in plans and the family were put in a van and driven to the airport.
Connors’ said it was “like an abduction or kidnapping.”
David Connors and his brother Michael have been kept separately to their wives and children Eileen Connors said being flown to Pennsylvania was ‘like a kidnapping’
In her written statement obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer, she said:
We will be traumatized for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us.”
The family were flown from Seattle airport to Pennsylvania and arrived at the detention center on 5 October, where they remain.
Berks is one of three detention centers for migrant families in the US, the other two being in Texas near the Mexico border.
According to the family, Michael and David have been separated from their wives and children and are being kept in a different part of the centre.
In Eileen Connors’ statement she said her son was stripped naked and exposed with his clothes and blankets taken for washing.
When I ask how am I supposed to keep my baby warm in this horrible cold, all they tell me is to put a hat on him. ‘They even took away one of his formula containers, which I had to beg for three days for them to return to me.”
The couple are being held at an immigration detention centre in Pennsylvania.
Eileen Connor wrote that the blankets and sheets they were given ‘smelled like a dead dog’ and the conditions they are kept in are squalid.
She said she won’t use them to cover her son ‘for fear they haven’t been washed and my baby will become sick.” She added that the bathrooms are dirty and broken and at night a staff shines flashlights into their cell every 15 minutes.
I feel like someone is going to take my baby. She added they have been ‘treated like criminals’ adding:
This would never happen in the United Kingdom to US citizens, or anyone else, because people there are treated with dignity.”
There was no indication in the statements of what the animal was that the couple swerved to avoid hitting. In the area near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia, there are unmarked areas on the road where it’s easy to slip accidentally into either side.
Last year, a French tourist jogging on the beach in White Rock, B.C., a Vancouver suburb near the border, accidentally jogged into the United States and was arrested.