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British Family Who Made Unauthorized U.S.-Canada Border Crossing Has Been Deported

A vacationing British family who crossed the U.S.-Canada border without authorization has been deported after spending nearly two weeks in federal detention, according to a lawyer for the family.

Attorneys for the family said the four adults and three children were en route back to the United Kingdom.

David, 30, and Eileen Connors, 24, say they were driving near Vancouver with the five others when they inadvertently crossed the border into the United States. They were intercepted by a U.S. Border Patrol agent and arrested. The Connorses say they were were not given a chance to explain their mistake and when they requested to "simply turn around" and return to Canada, they were denied.

The group was taken into custody in Washington state on Oct. 3 and then, on Oct. 5, transferred across the country to the Berks Family Residential Center outside Reading, Pa., where they say they were "treated like criminals" under the supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Connorses complained that they were held in cold and dirty quarters in conditions that contributed to their 3-month-old son becoming ill.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a statement Wednesday giving its version of events.

"During processing, record checks revealed two of the adults were previously denied travel authorization to come to the United States. 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," the statement read.

A Pennsylvania group that advocates for immigrant families and children in federal immigration custody said the case typifies the "substandard treatment" families and children receive in immigration custody.

"We are not surprised that the agency would put the character of non-citizen victims of their misconduct and neglect into question to justify their actions. This is CBP's typical response to accountability. However, their communication in no way contradicts the family's account that for a brief moment they turned into an unmarked road on United States soil," said in an emailed statement from Aldea — The People's Justice Center.

"There is nothing that justifies the imprisonment of babies and toddlers, for any period of time," the statement added.

Eileen Connors said in a sworn statement that when she complained about the conditions, the ICE staff offered to separate the family and send their 3-month-old son to another facility. They declined. "We were shocked and disgusted," Connors said.

The British Consulate in New York did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.