[UPDATE: The US Customs and Border Protection agency has given their version of events, saying that the border crossing was not an accident but deliberate. The whole thing seems a little weird. (Thanks to WMDKitty.)]
I have to say, if the US were trying to alienate as many people as possible, its immigration and police services are doing a magnificent job. The world is already pretty much aware of the utter cruelty and inhumanity with which undocumented immigrants and refugees are treated when they arrive at the borders. We also know the racism of Donald Trump in the way he openly disdains countries that are the home of people of color. But it seems that even people from the favored European countries who happen to stumble into the arms of US police and the immigration system are subject to abuse.
Take the case of a British family David Connors, 30, his wife Eileen, 24, and their three-month old baby who were visiting Canada and had the misfortune to accidentally enter the US while on a road trip in that country.
The family’s attorney, Bridget Cambria, of Aldea – the People’s Justice Center, said the couple were driving south of Vancouver on 3 October when they took a detour to avoid an animal on the road.
The family say they did not realise they had strayed over the US border.
They were stopped by a police officer who did not read them their rights, nor allow them to “simply turn around” and go back to Canada, according to the complaint.
At first the young family say they were separated – with David Connors being held in a male-only cell, and Eileen Connors and their infant son in a women’s cell.
Later, the husband was taken to a detention centre in Tacoma, Washington, while his wife and their baby son were taken to a budget hotel near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to the complaint.
The following morning they say they were driven to the airport, which raised their hopes that they were being flown back to Canada or the UK.
“But that was not the case,” Eileen Connors says in the sworn statement. Instead, they were flown to Pennsylvania – on the other side of the country.
They were taken on 5 October to Berks Family Residential Center (BFRC), one of three immigration detention centres in the US that can accommodate families.
Mrs Connors says: “We will be traumatised for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us.”
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed the family was in detention at the BFRC facility in Leesport, Pennsylvania.
The couple’s sworn statement says the cells are “frigid”, and staff have refused to turn the heating on until the end of next month.
“When I ask how I am supposed to keep my baby warm in this horrible cold, all they tell me is to put a hat on him,” Mrs Connors said in the statement.
“My baby can’t wear a hat all the time, he feels uncomfortable with hats and mittens and starts to cry.”
Staff, she added, confiscated her son’s formula for three days, as well as his teething powder, and would only provide “disgusting” blankets that smelled “like a dead dog”.
They say the baby’s skin is now rough and blotchy and he appears to have an eye infection.
“We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to,” Mrs Connors said. “It is not right.
And people in the US keep asking why ‘they’ hate us. It is indeed a mystery.