U.S. Citizen Detained for Weeks After Immigration Officials Doubted His Birth Certificate

Francisco Galicia and his attorney, Claudia Galan.
Francisco Galicia and his attorney, Claudia Galan, after his release on Tuesday. Claudia Galan / Facebook

An American teen was locked in detention for three weeks because immigration officials doubted his citizenship.

Francisco Erwin Galicia, 18, who was born in Dallas, was stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Texas on June 27, when he, his brother and some friends were traveling from the border town of Edinburg to a soccer scouting event, his attorney, Claudia Galan, told InsideEdition.com on Wednesday.

Galacia carried his state-issued identification card, his Social Security card and a copy of his birth certificate, Galan said. Nonetheless, he was taken into custody and held for weeks without being allowed to make a phone call, she said. 

After he was moved to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, he was finally allowed to call his mother, who contacted Galan, the lawyer said. Galan said it took 11 days to get him released, even though she took Galicia's original birth certificate to immigration officials.

"They didn't believe that his birth certificate was real," she said. She called his being taken into custody a serious example of "racial profiling" being conducted by immigration officials who are increasingly incarcerating people believed to be in the U.S. illegally.

Galicia described being locked in a small room with "60 other men with one toilet and no privacy," Galan said. They were not allowed to make phone calls, and some of the men fainted and fell ill in the overcrowded room, her client told her, Galan said. They were given a sandwich for lunch and a sandwich for dinner, she said.

"He said he would just sleep to keep from being hungry," Galan recounted.

In a statement to InsideEdition.com, ICE said Galacia gave "conflicting reports" about his citizenship. "While we continue to research the facts of the situation, the individual has been released from ICE custody."

Asked what conflicting reports were given by Galacia, an ICE spokeswoman declined to answer. "We are not providing any additional details," she said.

Galacia has returned to his home in Edinburg, where he is very happy to be reunited with his mother, Galan said. 

His brother, Marlon, 17, a Mexican national, was released from custody after two days and is now staying with his grandmother in Mexico.

Galan said immigration officials doubted Galacia's citizenship in part because his mother had applied for a tourist visa when her son was a child so they could visit family in Mexico. She incorrectly listed his birthplace as Mexico, Galan said. But databases checked by immigration officials showed Galacia was a U.S. citizen, she said.

When she arrived Tuesday to pick up Galacia, immigration officials "didn't apologize or explain" why Galacia was wrongfully detained, she said. 

Under federal guidelines, detainees are not supposed to be held for longer than 72 hours. Yet in the Texas border area where Galacia was held, a Department of Homeland Security internal watchdog group warned in May of "dangerous overcrowding" at detention facilities where adults were being held in "standing-room-only conditions" for weeks at a time. 

A 2018 investigation by the Los Angeles Times found ICE released more than 1,480 people after investigating their citizenship. The probe also discovered a U.S. citizen had been held for more three years.

Galacia was released by ICE less than a day after The Dallas Morning News reported his detention. 

On Tuesday, federal immigration officers in Missouri smashed a car window and dragged a Mexican national from his car while his girlfriend and children sobbed. Facebook video showed Florencio Millan-Vazquez and Cheyenne Hoyt repeatedly asking to see a warrant. 

"I'm still in shock," Hoyt told The Associated Press. "He is not a rapist, he's not a murderer, or a drug dealer. And the way they did it, in front of the kids, they didn't care."

The day before, neighbors formed a human chain to prevent the arrest by ICE of a Tennessee man who refused to leave his vehicle. His 12-year-old son was also inside. After several hours, the ICE agents left without arresting him, the AP reported.

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