Londoners David Connors, 30, Eileen Connors, 24, and their son, were taken into custody by US Border Patrol officers on Oct. 2, after the vehicle they were riding in crossed the border while allegedly detouring to avoid an animal in the road. (web image)

UPDATED: British couple vacationing in Vancouver detained in US after ‘accidentally’ crossing border

CBP claims individuals were denied travel authorization, crossing was deliberate

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is contradicting media reports about the detention of a holidaying British couple and their three-month-old son who made headlines in multiple U.K. and U.S. media outlets.

The couple – who as of Wednesday were being detained in the U.S., along with other members of the same family – allege they crossed the B.C./Washington State border into Washington state “accidentally.”

But a CBP spokesperson told Peace Arch News Tuesday that the vehicle in which they were travelling – on Zero Avenue – made a deliberate crossing of the border on Oct. 2.

In an emailed statement, the spokesperson also noted that record checks had shown that two of the adults in the vehicle had previously been denied travel authorization to come to the U.S.

Furthermore, the statement says, Canadian authorities refused to allow return of the detainees after the incident.

READ ALSO: Smuggler’s Inn owner charged with helping people illegally enter Canada

READ ALSO: Guilty plea entered in human smuggling case at South Surrey border crossing

Wednesday afternoon, the spokesperson confirmed reports that the travellers also “had more than $16,000 CAD and a small quantity of marijuana, less than three grams.”

According to media reports, Londoners David Connors, 30, Eileen Connors, 24, and their infant son were taken into custody by CBP officers after the vehicle – driven by David Connors’ brother – inadvertently crossed the border after detouring to avoid an animal in the road.

(The driver, along with his other passengers, his wife and their two-year-old twin girls – apparently Canadian residents – are also in detention in the U.S. as suspected illegal immigrants.)

In video surveillance of the alleged crossing – which notes the arrest occurred in Lynden – a vehicle can be seen slowly breaching the international boundary. The video also captures what appears to be a small animal crossing the road a short distance in front of the vehicle.

The couple’s sworn statement asserts the family did not realize they had crossed the border, and 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.

The Connors are now being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at the Berks Family Residential Center (BFRC) in Leesport, Penn.

In the statement, the couple describe their detention (which has reportedly included separation of the brothers from their wives and children), as “the scariest experience of our lives.”

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.

The CBP account says, however, that the vehicle was travelling deliberately when tracked by remote video surveillance.

“A vehicle was observed… turning west onto Avenue 0 in British Columbia, Canada, at approximately 9 p.m.,” the statement says.

“The vehicle then turned south and entered the U.S. illegally, by slowly and deliberately driving through a ditch onto Boundary Road in Blaine, Washington. The vehicle traveled west on Boundary Road continuing on the United States’ side, and was pulled over by a Border Patrol agent a short time later.

“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.”

During processing, record checks revealed two of the adults were previously denied travel authorization to come to the U.S., the CBP spokesperson says.

“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 at approximately 3 p.m. on Oct. 3.

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.

In a statement from their lawyer provided to the BBC and other media outlets in the U.S. and U.K., the couple allege mistreatment during their continuing detention, including “frigid” cells and inadequate clothing and blankets for their child.

U.S. immigration 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.”

“‘Reports of abuse or inhumane conditions at BFRC are unequivocally false,” an ICE spokesperson told media.



alex.browne@peacearchnews.com

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