Francisco Erwin Galicia, an 18-year-old American-born U.S. citizen, was traveling north with a group of friends heading to his hometown of Edinburg, Texas, when they were stopped at a Border Patrol inland checkpoint.
The Dallas Morning News first reported that Galicia was detained by Border Patrol because they suspected that he was in the U.S. illegally – even though he had a Texas state ID.
Galicia was wrongfully detained for three weeks by Border Patrol. But he was released on Tuesday from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Pearsall, Texas less than a day after The Dallas Morning News reported his unlawful detention.
Claudia Galan, Galicia’s lawyer, told the Associated Press she believes Galicia was “absolutely” a victim of racial profiling. The others in the vehicle with him were all Latinos, including his 17-year-old brother Marlon, who was born in Mexico and was actually in the U.S. illegally. Marlon told the Morning News that he agreed to be returned to Mexico.
ICE and Border Patrol issued a statement on Wednesday – blaming Galicia for their mistake in detaining him.
The statement said that Galicia gave “conflicting reports regarding status of citizenship” while detained. What actually happened is that Galicia’s mother had incorrectly applied for a tourist visa for him that suggested he had been born in Mexico.
Either way, Galicia was detained by the Border Patrol illegally for well above the 72 hours that it is supposed to hold detainees. That’s not too surprising, however – 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.
This isn’t the first time that immigration authorities have arrested U.S. citizens. A 2018 investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that ICE had released more than 1,480 people after investigating their citizenship status and realizing they had made a mistake. In one particularly horrific case, a U.S. citizen was held in immigration detention for more than three years.