Video released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows a vehicle crossing illegally into Lynden, Washington from Canada on Oct. 2. The seven people inside the vehicle were an extended family from the United Kingdom.
Lawyers for the family say they were deported to England after nearly two weeks in federal custody.
Immigration attorney Bridget Cambria says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told her all seven members of the family, including an infant and toddler twins, are headed back to England. ICE declined comment Wednesday afternoon, saying it doesn't discuss "removal arrangements" before deportees are back in their own country.
The family says they mistakenly crossed the border into Washington state while trying to avoid an animal in the road. An affidavit says family members were "treated like criminals" by their U.S. jailers. U.S. officials say the family crossed the border on purpose, adding that two of the family members had previously been denied entry to the U.S., but did not elaborate why.
Border officials said officers found $16,000 and less than three grams of cannabis inside the family's vehicle, reports Canada's CTV.
The following is the complete statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection:
“A vehicle was observed via remote video surveillance system turning west onto Avenue 0 in British Columbia, Canada, at approximately 9 p.m., Oct. 2. The vehicle then turned south and entered the U.S. illegally, by slowly and deliberately driving through a ditch onto Boundary Road in Lynden, Washington. The vehicle traveled west on Boundary Road continuing on the United States side, and was pulled over by a Border Patrol agent a short time later. The seven occupants of the vehicle, who are citizens of the United Kingdom, were arrested at approximately 9:13 p.m., in accordance with law as established by the Immigration and Nationality Act for illegally entering the United States without inspection.
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 seven individuals, consisting of four adults and three children, were processed by Border Patrol and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Enforcement and Removal Operations at approximately 3 p.m. on Oct. 3.”
U.S. officials assert the family of Eileen and David Connors crossed the border on purpose, noting their vehicle was observed "slowly and deliberately" driving through a ditch to cross into U.S. territory in Lynden, Washington, on Oct. 2. Four adults and three children were inside.
"During processing, record checks revealed two of the adults were previously denied travel authorization to come to the United States," U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday in a statement to The Associated Press.
Officials did not say which adults had been previously denied entry into the U.S.
The agency said that border agents tried returning the family to Canada, but Canada refused to have them back. After making two attempts to contact British consular officials, the border patrol said it turned the family over to U.S. immigration officials for removal proceedings.
Eileen Connors, 24, who is being held in Pennsylvania along with her husband David, their 3-month-old son, and other family members, said U.S. officials have mistreated them.
"We will be traumatized for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us," she wrote in an affidavit released by immigrants' rights groups in Pennsylvania.
Connors' family, a couple related to them, and their young children were driving along the U.S.-Canada border while vacationing in the Vancouver area when Eileen Connors said they detoured briefly onto an unmarked road to avoid an animal — and, in the process, unknowingly crossed into the United States.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent quickly pulled them over, declared they had "crossed an international border" and took them into custody, Connors said. She said the family asked to turn around and go back, but the officer refused.
"This is how the scariest experience of our entire lives started," Connors wrote.
Separated from her husband, Connors described being forced to sleep with her infant on the "disgusting floor" of a cold cell the first night of her detention. From there, she was taken to a Red Roof Inn in Seattle, and eventually flown across the country to Pennsylvania.
At the Berks Family Residential Center — one of three family detention centers in the U.S. that hold children and parents who are seeking asylum or who entered the country illegally — Connors described a frigid facility whose staff claimed they couldn't turn on the heat until the end of November.
Bathrooms are "dirty and broken," she wrote, and a staff member shines a light in their room every 15 minutes throughout the night. She said her baby developed a swollen and teary eye and rough, blotchy skin in custody.
"We have been treated unfairly from day one," Connors wrote. "It is undoubtedly the worst experience we have ever lived through."
U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement said the Berks center "has an outstanding track record" and "is regularly awarded exceptional ratings concerning the health, safety, and treatment of its residents."