A British family, Connors, have related their ordeal in the United States after they were detained for days after mistakenly driving across border into the United States during vacation.
Originally from the United Kingdom, two couples and their three young children were driving near the US-Canada border on October 3 during a visit to Vancouver when an animal ventured into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.
But before the Connors could get very far, flashing lights from a police car appeared in their rearview mirror. The officer that pulled them over was American — they had accidentally crossed the border.
The vacationing family says this was the moment their trip turned into “the scariest experience of our lives,” according to a complaint filed on Friday to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. Instead of being allowed to return to Canada or the U.K., Eileen Connors alleges that her entire family, including her 3-month-old son, ended up detained at the Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport, Pa., where they have spent more than a week living in “frigid” and “filthy” conditions. As of late Monday, Bridget Cambria, the Connors’s lawyer, told The Washington Post that the British family was still at the centre waiting to be deported.
“We will never forget, we will be traumatized for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us,” Connors wrote in a sworn statement, later adding, “We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to. … It is undoubtedly the worst experience we have ever lived through.”
US Customs and Border Protection could not be reached for comment late Monday.
Officials with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed in a statement to the BBC that the family is being held at the Leesport facility, but disputed their claims of mistreatment. The center, the statement said, “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,” officials said.
Connors, however, alleges that the mistreatment began shortly after her family was stopped by the American officer.