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Outcome for British family detained by U.S. at border unusual: lawyer

Last Updated Oct 16, 2019 at 1:55 pm PDT

FILE: Canadian border guards are silhouetted as they replace each other at an inspection booth at the Douglas border crossing on the Canada-USA border in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday August 20, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A British family vacationing in Vancouver will be deported from the U.S. after they say they crossed by mistake

An immigration lawyer says the scenario is unusual

Some Canadians who cross unintentionally are often just sent back home

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A British family that had been vacationing in Metro Vancouver is now in their second week in U.S. border custody waiting for a deportation ride home.

Four adults and three children crossed into the United States from near Vancouver, saying they mistakenly crossed the border while out on a drive. U.S. border officials, however, say the crossing was deliberate, as two family members had previously been denied entry.

Now, an immigration lawyer says unintentional crossings aren’t unusual, but this outcome is.

Len Saunders says he often hears of U.S. Border Control finding people one the wrong side of the border, but the difference here is nationality; Canadians found passing the B.C. border are usually pointed back home. But with foreigners, even Canada won’t take them back.

“Normally, they ask questions later. They take you into custody, and the problem is, because they’re British, it’s up to the Canadians whether they’re allowed to go back in, and quite often the Canadians say no,” he says.

“They’re concerned if someone has illegally entered the United States they’ve now violated U.S. immigration laws, and why would they want them to re-enter Canada?”

In this case, Saunders finds it suspicious that some individuals in the vehicle may have been denied earlier in the day, and just happened to unintentionally cross later in the day.

However, he understands how someone could cross by mistake at the border near Vancouver, where there isn’t a wall to signal the border’s edge, just a ditch.

He says there are cases where someone may be jogging or walking their dog near the border and go too far south, just to find requests for a Nexus pass denied years later over the unintentional crossing.

A lawyer for the family detained says they passed into Washington state while trying to avoid hitting an animal, and have since been “treated like criminals” by the U.S. border agents, staying in unsanitary immigration facilities awaiting deportation. An infant and two-year-old twins are among those detained.

The lawyer has lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general and civil rights office.