CBC is reporting that a French woman spent two weeks in an American detention centre after accidentally stepping foot on U.S. soil near the Peace Arch border crossing last month.
Cedella Roman, 19, who was visiting her mother in North Delta, said she was jogging along the Semiahmoo Bay waterfront and inadvertently crossed the Douglas (Peace Arch) port of entry on May 21.
At the end of her jog, Roman turned around and headed back to Canada when she was apprehended by two U.S. border patrol officers, she told CBC News.
“An officer stopped me and started telling me I had crossed the border illegally,” she said. “I told him I had not done it on purpose and that I didn’t understand what was happening.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) officers told her that she had entered illegally, CBC reported.
An USCBP spokesperson told Peace Arch News Friday that the agency cannot provide information on the case due to the privacy act, but did offer a statement on behalf of the service.
“If an individual enters the United States at a location other than an official port of entry and without inspection by a Customs and Border Protection officer, they have illegally entered the United States and will be processed accordingly,” the statement said.
“It is the responsibility of an individual traveling in the vicinity of an international border to maintain awareness of their surroundings and their location at all times to ensure they do not illegally cross the border. Additionally, it’s important for people traveling near the border to carry identification at all times, so that agents or officers can easily verify their identity.”
After Roman was detained, she was reportedly transported to Tacoma Northwest Detention Centre, a facility operated by the Department of Homeland Security.
“They put me in the caged vehicles and brought me into their facility,” she said. “They asked me to remove all my personal belongings with my jewellery, they searched me everywhere.”
When Roman’s mother Christiane Fern learned of her daughter’s incarceration, she collaborated with Immigration Canada to co-ordinate the release of her daughter.
Roman was held in custody for two weeks before immigration officials on both sides of the border confirmed she was allowed back into Canada. She was then transferred back into B.C..
“It was just unfair that there was nothing, no sign at the border,” Ferne, who visited her daughter several times while she was detained, told CBC. “It’s like a trap… anybody can be caught up at the border like this.”
Roman was reportedly discharged from the detention centre June 6.
Roman has yet to respond to a Peace Arch News request for comment.