A British family-of-seven have been thrown into a US prison as illegal migrants for straying into American territory after taking a wrong turn during a visit to Canada.
David Connors, 30, and Eileen Connors, 24, from London, claim their three-month-old son has been subjected to disgusting conditions in the Pennsylvania detention centre where they are being held.
The couple and their baby were arrested along with David’s brother Michael Connors, his wife Grace and their two-year-old twin girls.
Bridget Cambria, an attorney with Aldea – The People’s Justice Center, has now filed a complaint on the family’s behalf with the inspector general of the US Department of Homeland Security.
The family claim they were visiting Vancouver on October 3 when Michael Connors swerved to avoid hitting an animal, accidentally resulting in them driving along a country road out of Canada into the United States, where they were stopped by border police.
One of the border agents told the family: “You crossed an international border”, before arresting the two men.
The Connors were 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.
But 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.
Mrs Connors wrote in a statement obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer that when they got to Seattle airport she thought they were finally going home, but were instead flown to Pennsylvania and arrived at the Berks center on October 5.
Mrs Connors 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.”
Berks is one of three detention centers for migrant families in the US, while the other two are in Texas near the Mexico border. It has for years been the target of activist groups who have targeted what they claim are poor conditions which they say harm to children and families.
Once there 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.
She said her son was stripped naked and his 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.
Mrs Connors claimed 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 a flashlight into their cell every 15 minutes.
She added: “I feel like someone is going to take my baby. We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to. It is not right.
“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.”
Ms Cambria added: “They had no idea they had crossed any boundary. They had no idea they were even in the United States. They were just trying to get back to their hotel.”
The attorney said that although no paperwork has been shared with the family or their lawyers it was likely the family will be formally deported.
A family source told The Daily Mail that Mrs Connors 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 the family’s 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.”
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