The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. That’s what 19-year-old Cedella Roman thought when she went jogging along the area’s smooth beaches – in a southbound direction, notably – on May 21.
Roman, who lives in France, had been visiting her mother in nearby North Delta, British Columbia. During her run, she was admiring the scenery when she unwittingly crossed the border from Canada into the United States, Roman told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The demarcation line between the two countries, it turns out, is only about three miles down the coast from White Rock’s popular wooden pier.
Roman told CBC News she hadn’t seen any signs indicating she was about to cross into the United States but that two U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers approached her shortly after she accidentally left Canada.
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“An officer stopped me and started telling me I had crossed the border illegally,” Roman told the news site. “I told him I had not done it on purpose, and that I didn’t understand what was happening.”
A map provided by CNN indicates that Roman would have crossed the border near the Peace Arch, a white marble monument that was erected in 1921 as “the world’s first monument dedicated to Peace.” The arch straddles the U.S.-Canada border and is inscribed with the words “CHILDREN OF A COMMON MOTHER” on one side and “BRETHREN DWELLING TOGETHER IN UNITY” on the other, meant to celebrate the friendship between the two North American countries.
Roman – who was not carrying any identification or proof of citizenship with her during her jog – told CBC News she thought the Border Patrol officers might simply let her go with a warning.
That was not to be the case, according to U.S. immigration officials, who confirmed the subsequent events in an email to The Washington Post.
Instead, the Border Patrol arrested Roman on May 21, “processed her as an expedited removal,” then transferred her to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell.
On May 22, Roman was taken to ICE’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, about 140 miles south of the border point where she had been arrested. She remained detained until June 5 when, after two weeks of paperwork and processing, Roman was taken back to the border “and removed to Canada,” Cutrell said.
When asked why Roman was detained for two weeks, an ICE official indicated that Roman’s status as a French citizen, rather than a Canadian one, may have lengthened the time it took to process her case.
“Once the U.S. 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.”
Neither Roman nor her mother, Christiane Ferne, could immediately be reached Saturday morning. Roman, however, recounted to CBC News that she was frightened after Border Patrol agents put her in “the caged vehicles” to transport her to a detention center.
“They asked me to remove all my personal belongings with my jewelry. They searched me everywhere,” Roman told the news site. “Then I understood it was getting very serious, and I started to cry a bit.”
Ferne decried her daughter’s arrest as “a trap” and told CBC News she provided Roman’s necessary travel documents to authorities immediately.
“It was just unfair that there was nothing, no sign at the border,” Ferne told the news site. “Anybody can be caught at the border like this.”
ICE said it received Roman’s documents May 24, and that the Canadian Border Services Agency notified ICE on May 29 that “it would be willing to determine [Roman’s] admissibility if she was returned to the Canadian Port of Entry near Blaine, Wash.” It’s unclear why Roman was not taken back to the U.S.-Canada border until June 5, nearly a week later.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection representative told The Post that it was incumbent upon those traveling near the border to carry identification at all times.
“If an individual enters the United States at a location other than an official port of entry and without inspection by a Customs and Border Protection officer, they have illegally entered the United States and will be processed accordingly,” a Border Patrol spokesperson said in an email. “It is the responsibility of an individual traveling 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.”