Vacationing Family From UK Accidentally Crosses U.S. Border, Immediately Taken Into ICE Custody

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Who Are Eileen And David Connors? New Details On Vacationing Family Who Accidentally Crossed US Border And Have Been In ICE Custody Ever Since

A British family has been in ICE custody for almost two weeks after crossing the border from Canada into the U.S. The Connors family says they were driving in Canada and inadvertently turned down a road that led them into the U.S. near Vancouver, Washington. When an agent pulled them over to tell them what they had done, they offered to turn back and return to Canada, where they were on vacation. Instead, they were arrested by Customs and Border Patrol then shipped from Washington state to a family detention center in Pennsylvania. They claim that the conditions they have faced have been filthy, cold, and inhumane. 

CPB will only say that they believe the family crossed on purpose and that they are following the typical protocols for such a situation. Meanwhile, the family says their baby's health is suffering and there is no word on when they will be released.

Who are Eileen and David Connors? Read on for all the details. 

1. Accidental border crossing

David and Eillen Connors, along with their infant son and David's cousin and his wife and two-year-old twins were driving in Canada near the border with Washington state. According to their statements, they turned down an unmarked road to avoid an animal that was in their path on the main road. Shortly after that, they were stopped by a U.S. official who told them they had crossed an international border. “We asked if we couldn’t simply turn around and the officer said no,” Eileen said in a statement. “We kept repeating we did not want to be here. We were detained anyway and treated in a way that no human deserves to be treated.” The officer then arrested them and took them into custody and set off the chain of events that led to them being held at a detention facility thousands of miles away.

“I’m aware of no rhyme or reason for how this family was treated — no history of things untoward,” attorney Bridget Cambria told reporters. “We’re aware of no negative or derogatory information at all; this was a couple that was on a family vacation with their young child.” All ICE will tell them about their case is that they will be deported to the U.K. at some point. 

The family was detained after crossing the border near Vancouver.

2. Shipped off to detention

The first night they were detained, Eileen says she and her son were placed in a cell with other women. There was nowhere for the baby to sleep and the floor was so dirty that she didn't want to set him down. They were held there with no information according to Eileen's statement. “The officers left us in the cell the entire day, with no information, no call to our family back home, no idea when we would be free to leave,” she wrote. 

The following morning, officials told them that they could be released if they could provide contact information for a relative in the U.S. who would act as their sponsor. The Connors did so. Then ICE said that was no longer an option, according to The New York Times. Instead of being released, they were put on a cross country flight to Pennsylvania where they were sent to the Berks Detention facility there. 

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3. Horrific conditions at Berks

The Berks facility is a 96-bed family detention center, and like many of the newer detention facilities the Trump administration is running, it has a lot of controversy around it. Immigrations rights groups in Pennsylvania have argued that the five-year-old facility is the site of legal and human rights abuses. "That is five years of human rights abuses, due process violations, disregard of Pennsylvania and Federal law and the immoral and unjust treatment of immigrant families,"  the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition writes about the center

In an affidavit, Eileen describes the conditions she and her baby are being subjected to at Berks. Her son is only three months old and has not completed his immunizations and she worries that the facilities and linen aren't clean. "The blankets and sheets in our room have a disgusting smell, like a dead dog,” she wrote. “I cannot use them to wrap up my baby for fear they haven’t been washed properly and my baby will become sick.” She also says they took a container meant for baby formula and she had to beg to get it back so she could feed her son. She says that in the last several days her son has developed some sort of skin irritation and what may be an infection in his eye.

When she complained, NPR says the agents offered to remove the baby from his parents' custody. "If we wanted, we could sign papers to allow him to be separated from us and taken to some other facility," Connors said. "We were shocked and disgusted."

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4. The U.S. says they did it on purpose

While the Connors family maintains that the border crossing wasn't intentional, the U.S. says otherwise. The Washington Post reports that Customs and Border Patrol officials say they have a video of the Connors making the crossing and the evidence contradicts their story about swerving to avoid an animal. The video allegedly shows them "slowly and deliberately driving through a ditch onto Boundary Road in Lynden, Washington.” The ditch separates two roads, one on the U.S. side of the border and the other in Canada. There are no cross streets connecting the two roads, according to the Washington Post and the only spots to cross between them are official border checkpoints. 

US officials refute their story.

5. Why not just let them return to Canada?

In her statement, Eilnee Connors says they asked to just go back to Canada. CPB says that Canada refused to allow them back in. “Attempts were made to return the individuals to Canada, however, Canada refused to allow their return and two attempts to contact the United Kingdom consulate were unsuccessful,” CPB said in an official statement. CPB officials said they didn't know why Canada was allegedly not letting the Connors return there. They claim the family had $16,000 in cash in their car at the time they crossed the border. 

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CPB also alleges that they had previously applied for travel authorization to visit the United States but were denied. A senior CBP official said the Connors applied for visa waivers to come to the U.S. last year but those were rejected for reasons that CPB did not explain. CPB says that since Canada allegedly wouldn't allow them back and the U.K. wasn't responding, they had no choice but to turn the family over to ICE. 

The Philadephia Inquirer reports that by Tuesday the U.K. had gotten involved and issued a statement saying: "We are providing assistance to a British family after they were taken into custody in the U.S.A. and are in close contact with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

6. Not a major crime

For all the talk about how illegal border crossings are illegal, it's instructive to step back and actually look at what the law says about it. An illegal border crossing is any entry into the US that isn't reviewed by a customs officer. A first-time illegal crossing is a misdemeanor and the punishment is a fine or six months in prison if convicted in immigration court. Teen Vogue did a round-up of other crimes that are similarly classified and they include things like illegally purchasing fireworks or trespassing in a national forest. While those crimes are comparable to illegal crossings, you don't hear stories about unauthorized hikers being tossed in a detention center for indefinite periods of time. 

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7. Complaint with Homeland Security

Eileen Connors has now filed a complaint about her family's treatment with the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security. "We will never forget, we will be traumatized for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us. We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to,” Eileen says. "This would never happen in the United Kingdom to U.S. citizens or anyone else because people there are treated with dignity.”

There is no word on when the Connors will be released or deported. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.