In late June, the Border Patrol detained Francisco Galicia, a Dallas-born American citizen. The 18-year-old was on his way to a college soccer tryout in North Texas when he was stopped at a checkpoint in Falfurrias, over 60 miles north of his home in Edinburg. He presented his state-issued identification, and was detained for three weeks. Galicia is back with his family now, but his detainment raised many questions.
Obed Manuel covers immigration and Latino issues for The Dallas Morning News, and says Galicia was carrying his Texas ID when Border Patrol agents stopped him. But officials doubted his citizenship status, especially because his brother Marlon, with whom he was traveling, was living in the U.S. illegally.
Border Patrol then found that Galicia’s mother had applied for a U.S. tourist visa for him in the past, falsely claiming at the time that he had been born in Mexico.
“That immediately causes and raises a flag for Border Patrol,” Manuel says. “I talked to an attorney yesterday who said, ‘If they think you’re in the country illegally, they basically have right to hold you.’”
Manuel says it took Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, three weeks to verify Galicia’s documents and determine that he was, in fact, born in the U.S.
“He’s not the first U.S. citizen to be detained and being close to deportation proceedings,” Manuel says.
He says a Los Angeles Times investigation discovered a number of wrongful arrests of U.S. citizens by ICE over the last several years.
“I’m not really sure how that happens,” Manuel says. “That is something that, maybe there needs to be more transparency on how that works, on how ICE operates and how this can happen to a U.S. citizen.”
Manuel says he has not heard from ICE after requests for comment to explain why Galicia was held for so long. He says he only learned about the confusion over Galicia’s tourist visa after speaking with Galicia’s lawyer.
As for Galicia’s brother, Marlon, he’s now living in Reynosa, Mexico – “a pretty dangerous border city in northern Mexico,” Manuel says.
“He’s obviously scared; he’s a 17-year-old. He wants to be with his mom. I don’t know what the future holds for him, but for now, he’s been deported,” Manuel says.
Written by Caroline Covington.