Four British tourists and their children who were apprehended by U.S. authorities after they wandered over the border in a rural area south of Vancouver, had a small amount of cannabis on them and $16,000 in cash.
Two weeks ago, the Connors family – two couples and their three young children – say they drove into U.S. territory to avoid hitting an animal, according to the official complaint they have filed with the U.S. government over their treatment while awaiting deportation at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a portion of a surveillance video that underpins its assertion the family crossed the border “slowly and deliberately.”
The grainy infrared footage shows the vehicle turning west onto Zero Avenue in Abbotsford or Aldergrove shortly after 9 p.m. on Oct. 2, then turning once again under power lines and through a small ditch and continuing west – but now along Boundary Road in Lynden, Wash.
In the foreground at the start of the 24-second clip, an animal the size of a large cat or a small dog wanders onto the Canadian roadway – roughly 100 metres ahead of the Connors’ vehicle – before pausing at the edge of the ditch. By the end of the video, the vehicle had not passed the area where the animal was standing.
The family’s lawyer, Bridget Cambria, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday or Wednesday.
An official with the U.S. border agency told The Globe and Mail that the family was arrested with $16,000 in cash and a “small personal-use quantity of marijuana” shortly after their illegal border crossing. The agency had no record of the Connors trying to enter the U.S. earlier at an official border crossing in the vehicle, which was rented from Ontario, the official said.
Along vast swaths of the 49th parallel, little more than scattered posts and a ditch separate Canada from the United States. Such is the case on Zero Avenue, a stretch of road south of Vancouver that runs directly parallel to the border, traversing three farming communities.
Despite the minimal barrier, the line that separates the two countries is far from unguarded: Infrared cameras alert the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to any intrusion, however minor.
In the past, families travelling from the United States have crossed this stretch of border in hopes of seeking asylum in Canada.
But Antonio Andre, who lived on Zero Avenue for 15 years, finds it hard to believe someone might drive through the ditch entering the U.S. side of the border by accident.
“It doesn’t happen,” he said Wednesday in a phone interview. Mr. Andre imagined most drivers would get stuck in the ditch anyway.
Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer based in Blaine, Wash., has seen many cases of Canadians mistakenly venturing too far south into U.S. territory. Typically, he says, these incidents are quickly resolved and the Canadians re-enter the country without any difficulty. However, complications arise when foreign individuals are involved. Canada has no duty to accept re-entry, according to Mr. Saunders.
In May, 2018, a young French woman jogging on the beach near White Rock accidentally ran across the border into the U.S. not far from where the Connors were apprehended. She remained in detention for two weeks after the incident.
Mr. Saunders says he’s never heard of drivers crossing the borderline along Zero Avenue by accident.
“It just seems awfully strange,” he said. “Because of what [position] they’ve put themselves into, they may be in custody for another couple more months.”
According to Eileen Connors’s social media pages, the 24-year-old and her husband, David, had visited Canada last year. They appear to have travelled across Southern Ontario last fall, stopping off at Niagara Falls and various other tourist attractions.
The couple returned to Ontario this past August with a newborn baby in tow, based on Instagram posts made by Ms. Connors. From there, it appears the Connors drove west past the Rocky Mountains. On the morning the family was apprehended by U.S. authorities, Ms. Connors had posted a photograph of her husband holding their nearly four-month-old baby with the snow-covered Rockies in the background.
With files from the Associated Press.
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