Cedella Roman was visiting mother and studying English but evening run along beach led to two-week detention nightmare
It started as a leisurely jog along a Canadian beach on a cool spring evening. But it turned into a two-week nightmare after Cedella Roman accidentally veered across the US border and was seized by US border patrol agents.
The French citizen was visiting her mother and studying English, when the family headed to White Rock, about an hours drive from Vancouver in May.
As dusk approached, the 19-year-old went for a jog along the beach. She swerved on to a dirt path as the tide came in, stopping briefly to snap a photo of the stunning scenery before turning around to retrace her steps.
It was then that she was confronted by two officers from the US border patrol.
An officer stopped me and started telling me I had crossed the border illegally, Roman told Radio-Canada. I told him I hadnt done it on purpose, and that I didnt understand what was happening.
She hadnt seen any signs marking the border, she said. I said to myself, well I may have crossed the border but theyll probably only give me a fine, or theyll tell me to go back to Canada or theyll give me a warning.
Complicating matters was the fact that she didnt have any government-issued ID or travel permits on her at the time.
Noting that her steps had been captured on security cameras monitoring the area, the officers detained the teenager and accused her of crossing illegally into Blaine, Washington.
She was transferred to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Centre, run by the Department of Homeland Security, more than 200km (125 miles) south of where she had been apprehended.
They put me in the caged vehicles and brought me into their facility, said Roman. They asked me to remove all my personal belongings with my jewelry. They searched me everywhere.
The gravity of the situation began to sink in. I understood it was getting very serious and I started to cry a bit.
Roman was able to contact her mother from the centre. Christiane Ferne rushed to the facility in a panic, bringing with her Romans passport and study permits.
It wasnt enough; staff at the centre said the documents would have to be validated by immigration authorities in Canada before they could release Roman, according to Ferne.
Two weeks passed before immigration officials in Canada and the US were able to confirm that Roman was eligible to return to Canada. Throughout it all, Ferne visited her daughter regularly at the centre.
It was just unfair that there was nothing, no sign at the border, said Ferne. Its like a trap anybody can be caught at the border like this.
Documents issued by the US government and shared with Radio-Canada confirmed that Roman was discharged on 6 June. The family said they were not sure if Roman will be allowed back in the US.
Immigration officials on both sides of the nearly 9,000km border refused to comment on Romans case, pointing to concerns over privacy.
In a statement, US Customs and Border Protection noted that anyone who enters the US outside an official port of entry is considered to have crossed the border illegally. This applies regardless of whether or not the individual claims to have inadvertently crossed the border, the department added.