Did ICE Detain an American Citizen Despite His Proof of Citizenship?

In July 2019, multiple news organizations reported that American-born teenager Francisco Galicia was apprehended and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the previous month — who then kept him for close to a month:

A United States citizen has been detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for nearly a month, his lawyer confirmed to CBS News.

Francisco Erwin Galicia was born in Dallas in 2000, a birth certificate provided by his lawyer, Claudia Galan, shows. Galan told CBS News she has provided ICE with several documents proving her client is a U.S. citizen. These documents include his birth certificate, his temporary I.D., health insurance cards and a high school school I.D.

Galicia’s mother was not informed of his detention or whereabouts for several days.

A July 22 2019 Dallas News article (“A Dallas-born citizen picked up by the Border Patrol has been detained for three weeks”) reported that the American teenager was taken into ICE custody on June 27 2019, along with his younger brother Marlon. Marlon Galicia was deported after two days:

An 18-year-old Dallas-born U.S. citizen has been in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than three weeks, his attorney says.

Now his family fears he may be deported.

Francisco Erwin Galicia was detained at a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias on June 27, said Claudia Galan, his attorney.

Galicia was traveling with his 17-year-old brother Marlon Galicia and a group of friends from Edinburg where they live to Ranger College in North Texas for a soccer scouting event when they came upon a CBP checkpoint, said Sanjuana Galicia, his mother.

It was about 8 p.m. Marlon, who was born in Mexico and lacked legal status, had only been through a border checkpoint on school trips and had never been pressed to provide travel documents.


[Attorney Claudia] Galan said she met with CBP officers [in July 2019] and presented them with Galicia’s birth certificate and some other documents but was unsuccessful in getting him released. She plans on presenting the same documents to ICE officers [the week of July 21 2019].

Galan told reporters that she provided proof to US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials, as well as agents from ICE. Neither released the boy despite receiving the proofs:

Galan said she met with CBP officers [weeks after Galicia’s detention] and presented them with Galicia’s birth certificate and some other documents but was unsuccessful in getting him released. She plans on presenting the same documents to ICE officers later [in July 2019].

Media reports about Galicia’s wrongful detention did not begin appearing until he had been detained for the better part of a month. Within days, subsequent reports indicated Galicia was released. A local July 23 2019 story, “Edinburg teen released after wrongful detainment,” confirmed that Galicia had been released:

After nearly a month in detention, Edinburg student-athlete Francisco Erwin Galicia was released [on the] afternoon [of July 22 2019].

Following an interview with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, McAllen-based immigration attorney Claudia Galan confirmed to the media that her client, Galicia, had been released from custody after being held since Saturday at the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas.

His detention came despite presenting a birth certificate showing that he was born in the U.S.

Galan said that agents continued to detain the boy despite their clear and acknowledged access to information validating his birthright citizenship:

… Galan further noted that Border Patrol agents had his birth certificate “from day one,” and that his brother had said he overheard Border Patrol agents “checking the database and saying that he did appear in the database as being born in Dallas, Texas, and that he was a U.S. citizen.”

Galan added: “So Border Patrol did confirm this information yet they kept him under custody.”

CBS News reported that in cases like Galicia’s, holds are not supposed to last longer than 72 hours. Galicia was held for close to a month:

Galicia was detained by the Border Patrol for well above the 72 hours that CBP says it is supposed to hold detainees. But in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where Galicia was arrested, the Border Patrol is holding hundreds of adult men and women accused of entering the country illegally for longer than 72 hours. In McAllen, Texas, adult men are being held in fenced-in pens. Vice President Mike Pence visited those pens this month, and reports and video of conditions there sparked outrage.

Galicia was released from detention on July 23 2019, just days after Galan alerted the media and told them that her client’s citizenship had repeatedly been proved to ICE and CBP to no avail:

Francisco Erwin Galicia, a Dallas-born U.S. citizen, spent 23 days in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in conditions that made him so desperate he almost opted to self-deport.

Galicia says he lost 26 pounds during that time in a South Texas immigrant detention center because officers didn’t provide him with enough food.

He said he wasn’t allowed to shower and his skin was dry and dirty.

He and 60 other men were crammed into an overcrowded holding area where they slept on the floor and were given only aluminum-foil blankets, he said. Some men had to sleep on the restroom area floor.

Ticks bit some of the men and some were very sick, Galicia said. But many were afraid to ask to go to the doctor because CBP officers told them their stay would start over if they did, he said.

The news organization also noted that Galicia was only released after their reporting shed light on the situation:

Galicia was released [on the] afternoon [of July 22 2019] from the ICE detention center in Pearsall where he’d been since [the prior] Saturday. His release came less than 24 hours after The News first reported on his detention. Before [he was transferred to Pearsall], he’d been held for about three weeks at a CBP facility in Falfurrias, where he reported the squalid conditions.

Galicia said that he tried to let his mother know that he and his brother had been detained en route to a soccer game, and that when he did so that agents informed him he did not have any rights.

Agents have also not refused to return his documentation, leaving him unprotected in the event of another encounter with ICE or CBP agents:

Francisco Galicia told Border Patrol agents that he was a citizen and presented them with a Texas ID, Social Security card and a wallet-sized birth certificate.

But agents doubted the validity of his documents right away, Galicia said.

Agents then took the brothers and another passenger into custody. They held them at the checkpoint for a day and then moved them to a CBP holding facility, where Francisco hoped he would be allowed a phone call.

“I told them we had rights and asked to make a phone call. But they told us, ‘You don’t have rights to anything’,” Francisco Galicia said.


“Powerless. That’s how I felt. How with all this proof that I was giving them could they hold me?” he said.

Galicia says the documents he presented at the CBP checkpoint have not been returned to him.

Obed Manuel, a border reporter based in Texas, said Francisco Galicia is neither the first nor the only American citizen to be detained and face deportation.

Manuel added that if ICE or CBP so much as think you are in the country without proper documentation, that “they basically have right to hold you.”