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 Timber Sales’ operations on the North Island and Central Coast to be audited

The Forest Practices Board randomly chose the region to check for compliance to legislation

Williams Lake First Nation inks historic cannabis deal with B.C. government

The agreement paves the way for WLFN to sell cannabis to the government, and open stores across B.C.

Cariboo’s Strongest tests athletes’ mettle

Twenty men and three women took part

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

Most Read