Why did federal officials detain an American citizen from Dallas 70 miles from the border on the belief he might have crossed into the country illegally?
It sounds like a bad riddle, but it’s unfortunately a reality that lasted for weeks.
All evidence points to Dallas as the birthplace of Francisco Erwin Galicia, who was detained at a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint in Falfurrias on June 27 on the way to a soccer scouting event. His mother produced his birth certificate, Social Security card and state ID, but he still remained in custody for three weeks.
With a porous border and a system of ill-enforced court dates, we hear about migrants slipping through the cracks all the time. Is ICE detaining American citizens more capably than it can stop border crossings or keep track of migrants?
Galicia’s mother presented ample proof of his citizenship. Galicia’s brother, an actual foreign national, self-deported to Reynosa, Mexico, after two days in detention. Galicia himself poses no clear threat to the nation he has called home since he was born at Parkland Hospital 18 years ago.
Law enforcement officials did not act wholly without reason when they first detained the family. Others in the car, including Galicia’s brother, did not have proper identification. Galicia’s mother also falsely claimed he was born in Mexico while filing for a U.S. tourist visa years ago, according to their lawyer.
But in the face of overwhelming citizenship evidence, a single paperwork error should not have kept Galicia in detention for nearly a month, especially when his brother was processed so much more quickly. ICE has bigger things on its plate, including actual immigrants in the country illegally.
This gaffe weakens American faith in law enforcement at the border and plays right into the hands of politicians pushing for less security.
Surely ICE has easier cases to close. Falfurrias sits inside the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, one of the heaviest areas of migrant and narcotic trafficking in the state. We should be looking for 18-wheelers full of trafficking victims and bags of coke duct-taped to wheel wells, not teenagers from Dallas.
We are glad that ICE did free this American. But we hope this isn’t the end of the incident. Federal officials now need to sort through their processes and dig into what led to this long detention stay. An agency that holds onto an American citizen this long needs to revise its approach and in a hurry. Americans deserve better from our immigration officials.
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