News by VICE

An 18-Year-Old Citizen Has Been in Immigration Detention for a Month. It's Not the First Time.

Francisco presented his Texas ID, a Social Security card, and a small copy of his birth certificate at a CBP checkpoint

by Emma Ockerman
Jul 23 2019, 2:08pm

A Texas mom is fighting to get her teenage son — a U.S. citizen — out of an immigrant detention center where she says he’s been wrongly held for more than three weeks.

Federal immigration authorities have held Francisco Erwin Galicia, a Texas-born teen, in custody since June 27, when the 18-year-old student was crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint in Falfurrias, his attorney told the Dallas Morning News and the Washington Post. He was accompanied by his 17-year-old brother, Marlon Galicia, who lacks legal status and was born in Mexico.

Both teens were asked to provide travel documents. Marlon had only his school identification; Francisco had his Texas ID, a Social Security card, and a small copy of his birth certificate, but was unable to present a U.S. passport. The brothers were detained, and Marlon was deported to Reynosa to stay with family.

The brothers were traveling for a soccer scouting event, according to the Post.

Marlon has tried and failed to prove his citizenship to CBP and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, his mother, Sanjuana Galicia, told the Morning News. She’s provided his birth certificate and other documents, and plans to show the documents again to ICE — the agency that currently holds Francisco in custody — this week. The Morning News reviewed Francisco’s birth certificate and noted it lists him as being born in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

“I need my son back,” Sanjuana, who does not have legal status, told the Morning News. “I just want to prove to them that he is a citizen. He’s not a criminal or anything bad. He’s a good kid.”

Sanjuana once made a U.S. tourist visa in her son’s name incorrectly stating he was born in Mexico, according to the Washington Post. That may have been what confused immigration authorities. She thought the tourist visa might allow Francisco to cross the border to visit family, since she couldn’t get him a U.S. passport due to listing her own name incorrectly on his birth certificate.

ICE did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment, and did not provide the Dallas Morning News with a statement. Francisco is currently being held in the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall, Texas.

This is hardly the first time federal immigration authorities have been accused of wrongly detaining a U.S. citizen. According to a 2018 investigative report from the Los Angeles Times, ICE has released nearly 1,500 people from its custody since 2012 after misunderstanding their citizenship claims. Last year, immigration authorities tried to deport a U.S. citizen and Marine veteran. Just last week, three adolescent U.S. citizens were held by border protection officers at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in what activists considered to be an effort to “bait” their undocumented parents.

Cover: This Feb. 10, 2009 file photo shows the privately-run South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)