British family claiming mistreatment deported from ICE detention in Pa.

  • Laura Benshoff/WHYY

A British family that said they “will be traumatized for the rest of their lives” by their treatment in U.S. immigration custody can put that chapter behind them.

An ICE spokesman confirmed their deportation to the United Kingdom in a statement Wednesday evening.

The seven-member family, which includes two young children and a three-month-old infant, first grabbed headlines when two members of the family alleged that their border crossing was accidental, and that they worried their baby would fall sick while in federal custody.

“We made a very brief detour on an unmarked road to avoid an animal on the road [in British Columbia],” said Eileen Connors, 24, in a sworn statement. When a police car appeared and pulled them over, “we said we did not even know and we did not intend to cross the border. The officer said it did not make a difference.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested the family after 9 p.m. on Oct. 2.

In a statement, a CBP spokesman said the car was seen via remote surveillance video “slowly and deliberately” crossing the international border. A CBP spokesman speaking on the condition of anonymity said the area was near the intersection of Bender and Boundary Roads in Whatcom County, Washington. A grassy, dipped strip separates the U.S. roads from Avenue 0, in British Columbia.

Small white obelisks mark the delineation, but appear spaced dozens of yards apart on Google satellite imagery from 2015.

The family was issued expedited removal orders, according to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After processing at the border, the federal government transferred the Connors to the Berks Family Residential Center, in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

Their complaints about detention echo statements from the United States’ southern border, from icy cold border patrol holding cells and inadequate facilities for caring for young children.

“When we arrived at Berks, they took all of my baby’s clothes and blankets, even new things that still had labels on them, to wash them,” wrote Eileen Connors. “He had no clothes, bibs, or blankets for several hours.” Teething powder and formula were also confiscated, she said.

ICE operates the Berks Family Residential Center, which is owned by Berks County. In a statement, and ICE spokesman said, reports of “abuse or inhumane conditions at BFRC are unequivocally false.”

The Connors have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and DHS’ Inspector General.

 

WHYY is the leading public media station serving the Philadelphia region, including Delaware, South Jersey and Pennsylvania. This story originally appeared on WHYY.org.

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