UK family held after accidentally crossing US border 'could be free within day'
By Jess Glass, PA
Seven members of a British family detained after accidentally crossing the US border have been told they may be released within a day, their lawyers have said.
David Connors, 30, his wife Eileen, 24, and their three-month-old son along with relatives Michael Connors, his wife Grace and their two-year-old twin daughters were arrested by border officials on October 3 after accidentally crossing the US-Canada border while on holiday.
In a sworn statement David and Eileen Connors said they did not realise they had crossed the border when they swerved into a side road to avoid hitting an animal.
The family were arrested by a US Customs and Border Patrol agent moments later and have been detained for the last 13 days.
Mrs Connors said they were not given the chance to return to Canada despite explaining their mistake.
She said: "We were detained anyway and treated in a way no human deserves to be treated."
The family were originally taken to a facility in Washington state before being flown across the US to the Berks Family Residential Centre in Pennsylvania, where they are currently being held.
"We had no information about where they were taking us or why. It almost felt like an abduction or kidnapping," Mrs Connors said.
In the statement Mrs Connors also complained of poor conditions, including severe cold and inadequate facilities to feed her young son, but said conditions improved once they were allowed to contact the British embassy.
She continued: "We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights and lied to.
"We have been traumatised.
"The idea and memory of our little baby having to sleep on the dirty floor of a cell will haunt us forever."
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has denied allegations of poor conditions or mistreatment at the facility.
A spokesman from Aldea - the People's Justice Centre, who is representing the family, said an ICE official said they could be leaving the facility on Wednesday, but the family did not know whether to believe this.
The spokesman said: "Unlike the southern border, there are no markings, there is no fence, nothing that indicates one side of the street is the US and the other is Canada. It is only separated by a strip of grass a few feet wide.
"It is not the first time a foreign citizen accidentally crosses the border and becomes tangled in the dangerous web of immigration detention.
"They are very upset and emotionally affected. They wanted us to use exactly those words, 'emotionally affected'. They are being held against their will from the start and they just want to go home.
"They met with ICE earlier today (Tuesday) and they were told they would be gone in the next 24 hours - however they don't know who to believe or who to trust, as they have been told before they would leave within a certain time, and those plans have changed repeatedly."
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been assisting the Connors family.
In a statement on Tuesday ICE officials said: "On October 3, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) transferred Eileen and David Connors, as well as additional family members, to the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in Seattle to be processed as expedited removals.
"From there, ERO relocated the family to the Berks Family Residential Centre (BFRC). BFRC provides a safe and humane environment for families as they move through the immigration process.
"For operational security, ICE does not discuss specific removal arrangements prior to an individual's successful repatriation."