Eileen Connors, 24, her husband, David Connors, 30, and his cousin, Michael Connors, were visiting family in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 3 when they said they unintentionally drove into the US, Fox News reported. Other family members, including two-year-old twins and the couple’s three-month-old baby boy, also were in the car.
Michael Connors said he was driving close to the US-Canada border when an animal suddenly appeared, and he swerved onto an unmarked road to avoid hitting it, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Almost immediately, the family was surrounded by police cars and Border Patrol agents.
“They had no idea they had crossed any boundary,” the family’s lawyer, Bridget Cambria, told the news outlet. “They had no idea they were even in the United States. They were just trying to get back to their hotel.”
Ms Cambria said an officer told the family, “You crossed an international border.”
“We asked if we couldn’t simply turn around and the officer said no,” Mrs Connors wrote in a sworn statement, obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “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.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials told Fox News the family had access to their embassy while in custody, which the family members denied.
After being taken into custody, the family members were transported to a facility near the Canadian border. While there, Mrs Connors said she and the three-month-old were forced to sleep on a cold “dirty floor” with thin metallic-looking blankets.
“The memory of our little baby having to sleep on a dirty floor of a cell will haunt us forever,” Mrs Connors reportedly wrote.
The following day, they said officials initially told them they could be released into the custody of a family member in the US, but then they were informed they were not being released and instead had to remain in detention.
Mrs Connors said they were forced from cells into a van in a scene she described as being similar to “an abduction or kidnapping”.
David was taken to another detention centre, and Mrs Connors and her child were brought to a Red Roof Inn in Seattle. On October 5, the family was taken to a Seattle airport and flown to Pennsylvania, where they were processed at the Berks Detention Centre in Leesport.
The family detention centre, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, is one of three in the country. It’s often described as dirty, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf during the summer called the facility “wrong,” “immoral” and “inhumane”.
Mrs Connors said that since being held at Berks, her baby had developed blotchy skin and an apparent eye infection.
“We will be traumatised for the rest of our lives by what the United States Government has done to us,” the mother wrote in her statement.
“We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights and lied to … This would never happen in the United Kingdom to US citizens, or anyone else, because people there are treated with dignity.”
ICE confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday that Mr and Mrs Connors were being held at Berks but disputed claims that conditions at the facility were inhumane.
“(Berks Family Residential Centre) provides a safe and humane environment for families as they go through the immigration process,” ICE officials said in a statement. “BFRC supports all sanctioned local, state, and federal investigations into the safety and welfare of our residents. (Reports) of abuse or inhumane conditions at BFRC are unequivocally false.”
Ms Cambria, the family’s lawyer, said the family most likely would be deported back to the UK. She said, however, no such paperwork had been shared with the family and it was unclear what charges had been filed against the Connors.
— Fox News’ Bradford Betz contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Fox News and was reproduced with permission