The American Teen Detained by U.S. Immigration Officials Has Finally Been Released

Border Patrol agents hold a news conference prior to a media tour of a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary facility near the Donna International Bridge, Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Donna, Texas.
Photo: Eric Gay (AP Photo)

A U.S.-born teenager who was detained by U.S. immigration officials for more than three weeks was finally released Tuesday, the boy’s mother told the Dallas Morning News. Sanjuana Galicia said that her son, 18-year-old Francisco Erwin Galicia, was stopped at a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoint on June 27 and detained.

Galicia has been in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody since Saturday. Before that, he was in CBP custody, where he was not allowed to make phone calls, according to Sanjuana Galicia.

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The teenager was traveling to a soccer scouting event with his 17-year-old brother, Marlon Galicia, who was born in Mexico. The younger brother, who is undocumented, only had his school identification card to show the officials. The older brother showed his Texas state identification card, a sign he had a Social Security number. Both teenagers were taken into custody, and Marlon was deported two days later.

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The family’s attorney, Claudia Galan, said that she had previously shown Francisco’s papers to CBP. “I presented then with his original birth certificate and other documents and they ignored them. So now I’ve faxed over all the documents to the ICE agent handling the case,” Galan said. “He’s going on a full month of being wrongfully detained. He’s a U.S. citizen and he needs to be released now.”

“He’s been here all his life,” Galan told the Washington Post, but “when Border Patrol checked his documents, they just didn’t believe they were real. They kept telling him they were fake.”

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Over the phone from his grandmother’s house in Mexico, Marlon told the Morning News about the trauma that the immigration officials created: “We were confident that we’d be able to pass,” he said. “We were going to do something good for our futures. I didn’t imagine this could happen and now I’m so sad that I’m not with my family.”

Update, July 24, 10:44 a.m. ET: In a joint statement provided to Splinter, ICE and CBP blamed the snafu on “conflicting reports” from Francisco about his citizenship status. Here’s their full statement:

This individual provided conflicting reports regarding status of citizenship after being apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol and transferred into Immigration and Customs Enforcement Custody. Situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify. While we continue to research the facts of the situation, the individual has been released from ICE custody. Both CBP and ICE are committed to the fair treatment of migrants in our custody and continue to take appropriate steps to verify all facts of this situation. 

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