Dallas-born U.S. citizen Francisco Erwin Galicia was traveling to Ranger College for a soccer scouting opportunity when he came upon a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint. Instead of a chance at a soccer scholarship, Galicia was detained.

Though Galicia has legal status, he did not have his passport. He did have his Texas ID, however, which requires proof of lawful residency or citizenship as well as a Social Security number. After three weeks in Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) custody, unable to make calls to family, Galicia was transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) custody which has allowed him to make collect calls.

His attorney, Claudia Galan, has provided CBP with his birth certificate and other documents but was unable to secure his release. She plans to try again now that he’s in ICE custody.

“I presented them 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.”

Despite his birth certificate listing him as being born in Dallas’ Parkland Memorial Hospital, the ICE detainee locator system says he was born in Mexico.

Galicia was detained alongside his younger brother Marlon Galicia, who lacked legal status and signed a voluntary deportation order in order to talk to his mother sooner. The family fears Francisco will be deported as well, despite being a U.S. citizen. Marlon said he’d only made the crossing on school trips and had never been pressed for documents like this before.

“We were confident that we’d be able to pass. We were going to do something good for our futures,” Marlon told the Dallas Morning News by phone. “I didn’t imagine this could happen and now I’m so sad that I’m not with my family.”

This isn’t new ground for the nation’s immigration apparatus. Davino Watson was detained for more than three years despite having citizenship from his father. And there are more than a thousand other stories from people like Watson and Galicia, where ICE and CBP have detained American citizens after refusing to acknowledge their citizenship. ICE even tried to deport Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a citizen and Marine veteran from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tempting as it may be to think that this is a problem of the Trump administration and its focus on immigration, it dates back to both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies. Between 2003 and 2011, one report found that 20,000 U.S. citizens were detained or even deported. During the administration of “Deporter-in-Chief” Barack Obama, the breakneck speed of the deportation process increased the chance for error, said Laura Murray-Tjan of the Federal Immigration Appeals Project.

“It’s already easy for errors to be made, and you layer on top of that the speed at which things are done in immigration court,” she said.

And given the experience of Galicia, once the error is made it is very hard to get it corrected.

(Featured image: Wikimedia Commons)


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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