The Slatest

Teenage U.S. Citizen Has Been Detained by Immigration Authorities for Three Weeks

U.S. Customs and Border Protection sign
U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained Francisco Galicia on June 27.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Update, July 24: ICE released Francisco from custody later on Tuesday.

Original story: An 18-year-old American citizen born in Dallas has been in U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for more than three weeks, the Dallas Morning News reported Monday.

Francisco Erwin Galicia had been traveling with a group of friends and his 17-year-old brother Marlon from their Edinburg home in southern Texas to Ranger College in northern Texas for a soccer event. At about 8:00 p.m. on June 27, the group came across a border patrol checkpoint. Marlon, who was born in Mexico and does not have legal status, claims he had passed through checkpoints before without having to present extensive documentation. Immigration agents were apparently stricter this time around.

Marlon only had his school ID, while Francisco had a Texas ID, a Social Security card, and a wallet-sized birth certificate, the Washington Post reported. Marlon signed a voluntary deportation form after two days in detention and is now with his grandmother in Mexico.

CBP also detained Francisco because he did not have his passport and agents suspected that his documents were forged, according to his lawyer, Claudia Galan. After collecting his fingerprints, they discovered that he had a U.S. tourist visa in his name indicating that his birthplace was in Mexico. His mother Sanjuana, who is undocumented, had gotten him the visa while he was still a minor and falsely listed his birthplace because she thought it was the only way he could travel across the border to visit family.

Francisco remained in CBP custody for several weeks, during which time he was not allowed to make phone calls. Over the weekend, he was transferred to ICE and is now able to make collect calls. Francisco’s mother provided CBP and ICE with his original birth certificate and other identifying documents, which both the Morning News and the Post have reviewed. His lawyer also explained the visa situation to the immigration agency.

“He’s going on a full month of being wrongfully detained,” Galan told the Morning News. “He’s a U.S. citizen and he needs to be released now.”

Even after intervention from his lawyer and family, Francisco is still being held at ICE’s South Texas Detention Facility. He has reportedly refused to sign paperwork for fear that it would result in deportation. Galan is traveling to the facility on Tuesday to attempt to secure his release.

Slate has reached out to ICE and CBP for comment and will update this story if they respond.