U.S. Born 18-Year-Old Released from Border Patrol Custody after 3-Week Detention
Dallas-born Francisco Erwin Galicia, a U.S. citizen who spent three weeks in Customs Enforcement and U.S. customs and Border Protection custody since June 27 was finally released on July 23 in the afternoon.
On Tuesday, an official working for ICE called Francisco's mother, Sanjuana Galicia, informing her they had located her son's documents and determined his citizenship was actually valid.
He would be freed later that day, they said.
"The first thing he said to me was, 'Mommy, they let me go. I'm free,'" Sanjuana told the Dallas Morning News in a telephone interview.
Apparently, Galicia's wrongful detainment was a bureaucratic mistake related to the fact he had both a U.S. birth certificate as well as a Mexican visa to travel between the U.S. and Mexico.
Francisco was about a year old when his mother moved back to Mexico while she was pregnant with his younger brother, Marlon Galindo.
Marlon was born in Mexico, not Francisco.
Sanjuana later decided to move in order to escape the violence in Reynosa, a city near the border in which drug cartels fight to control drug smuggling routes going into the U.S.
However, she was afraid she would not be able to legally cross the border with her two sons because she wasn't listed as Francisco's mother on his birth certificate since she was using a fake ID when she was working and living in Dallas.
Parkland used her work name on that birth certificate and ID.
Thinking that would complicate her ability to acquire a U.S. passport for Francisco, Sanjuana decided to seek a visitor's visa for him by falsely claiming he was born in Mexico.
The family eventually settle din Edinburg, Texas, where Francisco and Marlon attended J. Economedes High School years later.
The assistant soccer coach at the high school, Robert Acre, said Francisco was good enough to get a full-ride scholarship due to his height and speed.
"He's a good kid, and he could go play anywhere," Acre said.
After the two brothers headed out for a soccer scouting event on June 27 at Ranger College in North Texas, the boys had to pass through a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias.
That's where Marlon and Francisco were detained by border patrol authorities.
Francisco showed a Social Security card, his birth certificate and his Texas ID.
Marlon only showed a school ID and lacked legal status.
"I didn’t imagine this could happen and now I’m so sad that I’m not with my family," Marlon told the Dallas-Morning News.
Eric Cedillo, an immigration attorney, said Francisco's situation is the result him being from a mixed family inside the 100-mile stretch where border patrol authorities have strong discretion to exercise their authority.
"If they think you’re in the country illegally, then they might treat you like you don’t have rights. It’s their job to stop people who they think might be committing fraud against the U.S.," he explained.
CPB officers scanned Francisco's finger prints and found his visitors visa listed in the system.
That caused them to doubt the validity of is state-issued Texas ID, Social Security card and birth certificate, hi attorney said.
Francisco remained in custody for about two weeks until Sanjuana finally hired an attorney who presented authorities with his health insurance card, birth certificate, school ID and a congratulatory certificate given by workers after Francisco was born.
But they still did not set him free.
"If he’s a citizen, then the Department of Homeland Security, it seems, really doesn’t have grounds to hold him," Sarah Pierce, policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said about the case.
Sanjuana Galicia was unable to travel to the family's home in Edingburg to Pearsall, where Francisco was being detained, because she lacked legal status and would have risked being detained herself while passing through the CPB checkpoint.
She's just glad her son has been released.
"Thanks to God he has been released. My other son is still not with me. That still hurts, but thank God that Francisco has been released."
Galicia's case comes at the same time ICE and border patrol practices have drawn criticism and protests from Democrats and immigration advocacy groups across the United States.