Two members of a British family locked up in an immigration detention centre in America after accidentally crossing over from Canada had previously been denied entry to the US, it has been revealed.
David and Eileen Connors, 30 and 24, from London, are being held with their three-month old son Tommy and David’s brother Michael Connors, his wife Grace and their two-year-old twin girls.
The family said they blundered into Washington state while trying to avoid an animal in the road on the Canadian side and have since been ‘treated like criminals’ by their US jailers.
They say they have been subjected to filthy conditions in the Berks Detention Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania, since October 5.
But federal officials have now defended their handling of the case by disclosing that two of the adults had previously been denied entry to the country.
Eileen (pictured) said her son was stripped naked and exposed with his clothes and blankets taken for washing. Border officials have now revealed two members of her family had previously been denied entry to the US
The Connors claim that they accidentally crossed into the US from Canada, which led to their arrest and a flight to a deportation centre seven hours away in Pennsylvania
US 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 Blaine, Washington, on October 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,’ US Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday in a statement.
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.
Relatives back in Surrey say they are sick with worry and fear for Eileen in particular who is growing weak with hunger and stress.
Eileen is sharing a small room with her baby son, Grace and the twins and is too frightened to venture out other than to phone home and eat a meagre breakfast.
David and Michael are sleeping in a separate part of the detention centre.
Hope may soon be at hand, however.
David Connors, 30, and Eileen Connors, 24, (pictured) from London, say their three-month-old son has been subjected to filthy conditions in the Berks Detention Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania
A relative told MailOnline: ‘The Home Office say they should be back before the weekend but they were supposed to be home tomorrow so we don’t know for sure.
‘We don’t know when exactly we’ll see them and it’s causing the family real heartache and worry.
‘At the moment Eileen is sleeping in a small room with Grace and the children.
‘When I speak to her she sounds calm but I think that’s an act to make sure the kids are ok.
‘Inside she’s absolutely terrified. She spends most of the time in the room with Tommy because she’s scared to venture out.
‘They are one of the few people in there who speak English as most people come from Mexico and Latin America and speak Spanish.
‘Tommy hasn’t had his immunisations yet and already has a cold because the place is freezing. It gets really cold at night.
‘They have to wear baggy clothes which doesn’t offer them much protection at all from the elements.
‘The food is horrible in there. At the moment Eileen is surviving on toast and that’s it.
‘She says that for dinner they are giving food like mince meat but it’s really, really bad.
‘You have to be in the canteen prompt for 5.30pm otherwise you miss out and she has Tommy to cater for and it’s not always easy to get there on time.
‘She’s only a tiny little thing anyway, barely over 5ft, and she’s growing weaker and wearier. She’s having a real tough time sleeping at night and regularly has nightmares – as does Grace.
‘We’ve sent them money but all they can use it for currently is to buy phone cards and ring home.
‘Nobody in there is telling them anything. It’s the not knowing what’s going on which is the worst thing.’
Michael was driving with his family while vising Vancouver when he swerved to avoid hitting an animal (pictured, David and Eileen Connors)
According to Eileen Connors’ statement, immigration officials said there was a change in plans and instead of being released to family, they were put in a van and driven to the airport
Berks is one of three detention centers for migrant families the US, while the other two are in Texas near the Mexico border.
The family’s attorney Bridget Cambria, of Aldea – The People’s Justice Center, filed a complaint on behalf of the family with the inspector general of the US Department of Homeland Security.
Explaining what happened, the relative said: ‘Eileen and David and Grace and Michael had gone to Canada on holiday with their children a few weeks ago and never had any intention of going to America.
‘They were staying in Vancouver and had gone into the surrounding countryside to go fishing.
‘They were on their way back when Michael swerved to avoid a large animal, a moose I think, and ended up on a country road which led across the border.
‘The first they actually knew they’d gone into the States was when they’d actually turned around and were heading back when they were surrounded by police vehicles.
‘David and Michael were taken to a detention centre in Washington while Eileen and Grace and the kids were put up in a budget hotel nearby.
‘The immigration people stayed with them throughout, wouldn’t let them make any calls and told them nothing about what was happening.
‘They were there for two days before they were all reunited again at an airport near Seattle. For some reason they were flown to Chicago and then had a connecting flight to New York where they were driven to Pennsylvaniana.
‘I don’t know why the U.S authorities reacted the way they did, Eileen has been to America more than 20 times.
‘She and David visited New York only two years ago. They ended up in America this time purely by accident, there were no signposts or border crossings.
‘Why didn’t the US patrol accompany them back to the Canadian border rather than lock them up in what is a prison in all but name?
‘I’m not sure if she’ll ever go back to America after this, it’s a shame because she used to love going but this has probably put her off.’
Eileen said it was ‘like an abduction or kidnapping’ when they were put in a van and driven to the airport
UK citizens David Connors, 30, and Eileen Connors, 24, have been detained at Berks Detention Center in Pennsylvania with their three-month-old son
Michael turned onto an unmarked road and within moments, multiple police cars and Border Patrol agents appeared
Michael turned onto an unmarked road and within moments, multiple police cars and Border Patrol agents appeared.
‘You crossed an international border,’ the officer told them.
The two men were immediately arrested despite declaring their innocence.
‘They had no idea they had crossed any boundary,’ Cambria said Monday. ‘They had no idea they were even in the United States. They were just trying to get back to their hotel.’
Cambria said it’s likely the family will be formally deported, but no paperwork has been shared with them or their lawyers.
The family was taken into custody near the US-Vancouver border for the first night and were told they would be released to family in the US, though they said all they wanted to do was go home.
According to Eileen Connors’ statement, immigration officials said there was a change in plans and instead of being released to family, they were put in a van and driven to the airport.
In it, she said: ‘It was like an abduction or kidnapping. We will be traumatized for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us’.
Eileen Connors wrote in a statement obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
When they got to the Seattle airport, Eileen said she thought they were finally going home but instead they were flown to Pennsylvania and arrived at the Berks center on October 5.
The men were separated in a different part of the center, while Eileen opted to keep her son with her instead of separated with other children.
Eileen said her son was stripped naked and exposed with his clothes and blankets taken for washing.
‘When I ask how am I supposed to keep my baby warm in this horrible cold, all they tell me is to put a hat on him… They even took away one of his formula containers, which I had to beg for three days for them to return it to me,’ she wrote.
Also detained is David’s brother Michael Connor, one other women and two-year-old twin girls
‘We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to. It is not right,’ Eileen wrote
The family were driving near the Canada-U.S. border on October 3 when Michael swerved onto an unmarked road to avoid hitting an animal (pictured is a border crossing between Canada and the U.S.)
Eileen wrote that the blankets and sheets they were given ‘smelled like a dead dog’.
She said she won’t use them to cover her son ‘for fear they haven’t been washed and my baby will become sick.’
She added that the bathrooms are dirty and broken and at night a staff shines flashlight into their cell every 15 minutes.
‘I feel like someone is going to take my baby,’ she said.
‘We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to. It is not right,’ Eileen wrote. ‘We have been traumatized. This would never happen in the United Kingdom to U.S. citizens, or anyone else, because people there are treated with dignity.’
A family source told DailyMail.com Eileen had been trying to conceive for more than five years before their son was born. The family said it is heartbreaking for them.
US officials have denied their version of events.
ICE Official said: ‘Eileen Connors and David Connors are currently in ICE custody at the Berks Family Residential Center (BFRC).
‘BFRC provides a safe and humane environment for families as they go through the immigration process.
‘BFRC supports all sanctioned local, state, and federal investigations into the safety and welfare of our residents.
‘Reporters of abuse or inhumane conditions at BFRC are unequivocally false.