Cedella Roman, 19, was enjoying a run on the beach near White Rock, British Columbia, when it quickly turned into a nightmare. In late May, Roman ran along the beach before she went down a path to take a photo of the setting sun. It was then that she saw U.S. border patrol officers approaching her.
They told Roman, who is a French citizen and who wasn’t carrying any ID or proof of citizenship, that she had entered the country illegally.
Roman said she had not seen any signs marking the border.
“[The border guard] started telling me that I had crossed the border illegally and I told him that I really did not do it on purpose,” she told Radio Canada.
She was threatened with a five-year ban from the United States, as the officers explained that they could not release her because she had been caught on surveillance cameras.
“I thought, maybe I’ve crossed the border, but maybe they’ll just fine me or they’ll say ‘come back to Canada’ or berate me a little bit,” she said.
Instead, Roman was transferred to a detention center in Tacoma — 140 miles south of where she first encountered the officers.
“They put me in the caged vehicles and brought me into their facility,” she said. “That’s where I realized it was really serious and I started to cry a little.”
At the detention center, Roman was able to make a phone call to her mother in Canada — who brought her passport and study permits to prove her identity and right to be in Canada. She was released after two weeks of paperwork and processing.
Seems excessive, don’t you think? Yes, Roman crossed the border illegally. But she did it unknowingly. While ignorance of the law excuses no one, this doesn’t exactly fit that bill.
Why couldn’t the border agents simply have held Roman in Blaine and let her call her mother from there, instead of spending taxpayer dollars to drive her to Tacoma and detain her for two weeks?
It would have taken, at most, a couple of hours to clear it up and send Roman off with a stern warning to always carry ID.
We are a nation of laws. But we should also be a nation of common sense.