The Connors family, two coupes from the United Kingdom, one with a three-month old baby and the other with twin two-year-olds, were on vacation in Canada when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned their holiday into a 12-plus day-long nightmare.
On October 3, the family was driving near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia when an animal veered into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.
The family accidentally crossed into the United States where they were detained by ICE officials in what would become "the scariest experience of our lives," according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.
As British citizens, the Connors were legally allowed to visit America, all they needed to show as a passport. But, instead, they were detained and placed in a "very cold cell" at an undisclosed Border Patrol station in Washington state.
The family's lawyer said these detention cells are routinely referred to as "Hieleras" or "iceboxes."
At the facility, Eileen Connors, 24, and her three-month old son were separated from the rest of their family.
"The officers left us in the cell the entire day, with no information, no call to our family back home, no idea when we would be free to leave," Connors wrote. She also said the living conditions were unsanitary for her young child and she balanced the baby on top of her throughout the night so it wouldn't have to sleep on a dirty floor.
The next day, the family was told they'd be released if they provided contact information for a family member living in the United States who and the Connors obliged.
Then they were taken to the Seattle airport where they thought their nightmare was over.
Instead, on October 5, they were flown across the country to the Berks Family Residential Center in Pennsylvania. A detention center known as the "baby jail".
"There were a lot of silly decisions made along the way. In this instance, when you're talking about a 3-month-old, those silly decisions can be really dangerous," Connors wrote.
Her son was too young for the showers so it had to be cleansed with a washcloth in an office.On Friday, the baby "woke up with his left eye swollen and teary" and had "rough and blotchy" skin.
When she complained to ICE officials about the conditions, an ICE employee offered to remove their baby.
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"If we wanted, we could sign papers to allow him to be separated from us and taken to some other facility," Connors wrote according to NPR. "We were shocked and disgusted."
The family also claims they were never given the opportunity to call the British embassy. Instead, they had to rely on family members to get in contact. But after they did, their living conditions improved.
The facility provided a playpen and a wash tub for her son.
On Monday, October 14, after nine days in Pennsylvania, the Connors told The Washington Post they were hopeful they would be released the next day.
The Connors' story is a disgusting show of government overreach. The family was essentially kidnapped, thrown in cages, and transported against their will across a foreign country with zero control over their situation.
It's another example of the terrible immigration paranoia that has turned a country that once welcomed immigrants and people from foreign countries with open arms to a cruel and suspicious police state.
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