Amidst all the political hand-wringing over a U.S. administration immigration policy which led to the separation of illegal immigrants from their children, a rather interesting victim emerged over the weekend: A teenager from France, visiting her mother in Canada, who happened to cross the border from British Columbia to the U.S. while trying to get in an evening workout.
As reported extensively by the CBC and a number of other international news organizations, French 19-year-old Cedella Roman and her sister were visiting their mother in British Columbia near the U.S. border in late May. On May 21, they were near the border when Roman told her mother and sister that she wanted to go for a quick jog and would meet them at home. As she ran by the beach on her subsequent workout, Roman unintentionally passed the Peace Arch, a free-standing border divider between the U.S. and Canada, while running on the beach. She then made her way back up to a paved road as twilight encroached.
Roman was stopped along the roadway and apprehended by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in Blaine, Wash. She was then held due to her lack of government ID and later transported to an ICE facility in Tacoma Washington, more than two hours away.
“I said to myself, well I may have crossed the border — but they’ll probably only give me a fine or they’ll tell me to go back to Canada or they’ll give me a warning,” Roman told the CBC.
“They put me in the caged vehicles and brought me into their facility,” she said. “They asked me to remove all my personal belongings with my jewelry, they searched me everywhere. … Then I understood it was getting very serious, and I started to cry a bit.”
While Roman was able to call her mother, Christiane Ferne, shortly after arriving in Tacoma, and Ferne was able to bring her immigration documents to the detention center shortly thereafter, Roman was still held by ICE for two weeks. She was eventually discharged from the U.S. back to Canada on June 6.
U.S. officials insist that Roman’s case was handled accordingly and that her return to Canada may have been complicated by the fact she was a French citizen. Her mother doesn’t care about the justification; she insists that her daughter’s predicament was unfair to anyone because of the haphazard marking of the border between British Columbia and Washington state.
“It was just unfair that there was nothing, no sign at the border,” said Ferne, who visited her daughter several times while she was detained. “It’s like a trap … anybody can be caught at the border like this.”