A teenager out for a beachside jog in Canada was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers when she accidentally entered the country while stopping to snap a photo.
On May 21, Cedella Roman, 19, a French citizen, was running along the beach near White Rock, British Columbia, when she stepped onto a dirt path to avoid the high tide, reports Canadian news site CBC News. Roman paused to take a photo of the scenery and was suddenly approached by two American border patrol agents.
“An officer stopped me and started telling me I had crossed the border illegally,” Roman told CBC. “I told him I had not done it on purpose, and that I didn’t understand what was happening.”
Roman was staying in North Delta, British Columbia, with her mother, Christiane Ferne, to complete a work-study program, and at the time she wasn’t carrying any I.D., the outlet reports. Officers, who claimed Roman had illegally entered the U.S. in Blaine, Wash., detained her and took her to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center.
“They put me in the caged vehicles and brought me into their facility,” Roman told CBC. “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.”
Eventually, Roman was able to speak to her mom, who drove to the detention center with documentation for her daughter; however, it was two weeks before the teen was allowed to reenter Canada, 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.”
Yahoo Lifestyle could not reach representatives at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection, or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for comment. Likewise, Roman and Ferne did not respond to interview requests.
Roman was likely jogging in Peace Arch Historical State Park, which lies between Blaine, Wash., and British Columbia, Canada, where people often play football and enjoy picnics. “Some ports of entry are not clearly marked, and if you’re a tourist who is unfamiliar with your surroundings, it can be confusing,” Zool Suleman, an immigration and refugee lawyer in Vancouver, British Columbia, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Suleman is not familiar with the details of Roman’s case. However, he says, detaining a person who is forthright about their intentions for a two-week period is unusual. “Sometimes people of color will be profiled more frequently. However, that’s true for most borders, airports, and anywhere else racial profiling occurs.”
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told CBC that, accident or not, the rules for handling illegal immigration are the same.