British family detained after 'accidentally' crossing border gets deported as video raises new questions
Published Wednesday, October 16, 2019 2:53PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 17, 2019 12:55PM PDT
VANCOUVER – A British family who complained about being unfairly detained in the U.S. after "accidentally" crossing the border from a Vancouver suburb has been deported – as surveillance video raises new questions about what happened the night of their arrest.
Members of the extended Connors family said they took a detour onto an unmarked road to avoid an animal and found themselves in Washington state on Oct. 2. They said the four adults and three children, one of them an infant, were "treated like criminals" while held in custody over the past two weeks.
They were deported on Wednesday, as video obtained by CTV News purportedly sheds light on their movements the night they were detained.
The grainy black-and-white surveillance video, which came from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, shows a van slowly crossing a shallow ditch from the Canadian side of the border to the U.S. side at night, a process which takes several seconds.
Border officials allege it was the Connors family's vehicle, and that officers found $16,000 and less than three grams of cannabis inside.
Officials also said two of the adults in the family had been refused entry to the United States last year, though they didn't elaborate on why.
"The seven occupants of the vehicle, who are citizens of the United Kingdom, were arrested at approximately 9:13 p.m., in accordance with law as established by the Immigration and Nationality Act for illegally entering the United States without inspection," said a CBP spokesperson.
Pennsylvania lawyer Bridget Cambria lodged a formal complaint on the family's behalf with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's inspector general and civil rights office, describing mistreatment and "trauma" after their detainment and relocation from a Seattle motel to a detention facility in Pennsylvania.
Eileen Connors, 24, says the conditions her family, including three-month-old son, have been in are filthy and cold with broken bathrooms.
"We have been treated unfairly from day one," Connors wrote in an affidavit released by immigrants' rights groups in Pennsylvania. "It is undoubtedly the worst experience we have ever lived through."
CTV News tried contacting the Connors family through Cambria to elaborate on how and why they crossed into the United States, but has not heard back despite multiple attempts.
U.S. CBP says border agents had tried sending the Brits back to Canada, but that Canadian officials refused to allow them across the border. Canada Border Services Agency says the Privacy Act prevents them from addressing specific cases but notes anyone trying to re-enter the country must speak with CBSA officials and may be “subject to a more in-depth exam.”
In an email response, the CBSA goes on to say every admission is evaluated on a case-by-case basis “based on the information made available at the time of entry. Several factors are used in determining if an individual is admissible to Canada, including involvement in criminal activity, human rights violations, organized crime, security, health or financial reasons.”
The stretch of border the family had crossed onto is separated by a shallow ditch, with 0 Avenue on the Aldergrove, B.C., side and East Boundary Road on the Washington side near Lynden.
With files from the Associated Press