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Family Arrested at Border Crossing for Making a Wrong Turn

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Times and Transcript: It was supposed to be a pleasant Sunday drive to a nearby farmhouse.

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Instead, a New Brunswick family was detained at a Maine border facility for four hours last week after they mistakenly crossed onto American soil.

The family was interrogated and photographed, the adults fingerprinted, and their pickup truck was searched by investigators and a sniffer dog.

After church, Derek and Wendi McDaniel, their daughters Sarah, 4, and Megan, 8, and Wendi's parents, decided to visit a recently purchased farmhouse near New Denmark, which straddles Maine's eastern border.

McDaniel says he was aware he was nearing the border line as they approached the farmhouse, but that, as far he could tell from the road signage, Canadian territory ended just past the home.

"We passed a U.S. border patrol on the side of the road, and didn't assume there was anything wrong," McDaniel said in an interview yesterday.

But, as the family soon learned, the house they were trying to see is in Canada, but the road they took to get there is not.

A U.S. border patrol car pulled the truck over, and an officer told Derek McDaniel that they were arrested and their truck would be seized.

"At first I thought it was just a warning," McDaniel said.

"It didn't really sink until we were in the back of the patrol car."

For the next four hours, the family of six were held at the border facility in nearby Fort Fairfield, Maine.

"I know they have their job to do, but they did go overboard," McDaniel, a 14-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, said.

McDaniel said the ordeal was especially troubling for his young daughters, who were kept in the station throughout the ordeal.

After they were released, McDaniel's wife, Wendi, told him that his daughter Sarah had asked, "What they doing? Why are they doing that to Daddy?"

Wendi explained to Sarah that they had gone down the wrong road.

"Well, we shouldn't go down that road anymore," Sarah said.

David Astle, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent with the Houlton, Maine Border Patrol Sector, said yesterday that the family entered the country illegally and that border patrol officers followed standard procedure.

"We have done a lot of work at this particular crossing," Astle said in an interview.

"After 9/11, our mission included that we needed to prevent terrorists and illegal weapons crossing into the U.S. This crossing became a focus."

Since 2003, when they ramped up security at the crossing, Astle said they have arrested about 30 people that have crossed illegally.

Several were smuggling illegal drugs or involved in human trafficking, he said.

The United States Border Patrol announced late last year that they would close the road to all traffic, ending a unique situation of a cross-border golf club and a handful of Canadian and American properties. For 80 years Canadians and Americans have been making illegal entries into both countries to play golf or visit residences.

Now Canadian golfers have to go through an official border crossing to reach the club.

Astle said the border patrol has done a lot of work in communities on both sides of the border to explain the change, and that the road itself is well-marked.

"There are two signs, in both English and French, informing individuals that it is an illegal point of entry," he said.

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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Barb April 5, 2010, 10:56 PM

Why is this story so important? People get detained on a daily basis for crossing into the US illegally. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, brown, black, or purple. The US border patrol was doing their job.

Charles April 6, 2010, 1:38 PM

Why is not there a fence like the one at the border with Mexico?


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