Cedella Roman
Cedella Roman, photo from her Facebook page Facebook/cedella.roman

A French citizen who was jogging along a Canadian beach and accidentally crossed the borders to the United States was detained for two weeks by US border patrol agents. Cedella Roman, 19, crossed the US border without realising it.

Roman was visiting her mother in North Delta, British Columbia, on May 21 when she thought a jog along the beach of White Rock would be great. She had been admiring the scenery when she unknowingly crossed the Canadian border into the United States. She turned around to head back but that’s when she was stopped by two US Border Patrol officers.

“An officer stopped me and started telling me I had crossed the border illegally, she told CBC News. “I told him I had not done it on purpose, and that I didn’t understand what was happening.”

Roman said she didn’t see any warning signs. As it was unintentional, she first thought they were just going to fine her and give her a warning. She didn’t have any government-issued ID or travel permits with her. The officers then detained her in Blaine, Washington, and transferred her more than 200 kilometres south to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Centre. It was then that she understood the gravity of her situation.

She was able to contact her mother, Christiane Ferne, who rushed to the detention centre to present Roman’s documents that included her passport and study permits. Staff on the site told Ferne that she had to present the documents to Immigration Canada to determine if her daughter was eligible to be discharged back to Canada.

Roman was detained for two weeks before immigration officials on both sides of the border confirmed that she was allowed back into Canada. She was discharged on June 6.

“It was just unfair that there was nothing, no sign at the border,” Ferne told CBC. “It’s like a trap … anybody can be caught at the border like this.”

A spokesperson for the US Customs and Border Protection said anyone who crossed the border illegally would be processed accordingly, and this applies to everyone, regardless of whether or not that person was aware of illegally crossing the border.

“It is the responsibility of an individual travelling in the vicinity of an international border to maintain awareness of their surroundings and their location at all times to ensure they do not illegally cross the border. Additionally, it’s important for people travelling near the border to carry identification at all times, so that agents or officers can easily verify their identity,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement.

As for why Roman was detained for two weeks, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson explained, as per Washington Post, that it was Roman’s status as a French citizen, rather than a Canadian, had lengthened the processing time.

“Once the US Border Patrol transfers an individual to ICE custody for expedited removal to Canada, ICE must review the case and receive permission from the Canada Border Services Agency to complete the removal,” an ICE official said in an email. “This can take several days, especially when the individual is a third-country national.”