With 18-Year-Old US Citizen in DHS Custody for Nearly a Month, Rights Advocates Demand Immediate Release

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) holds immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border without going through a port of entry in detention centers like McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas. Last month, agents detained an American citizen, Francisco Erwin Galicia, at a checkpoint in South Texas. Galicia has been in custody since June 27. (Photo: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

With 18-Year-Old US Citizen in DHS Custody for Nearly a Month, Rights Advocates Demand Immediate Release

"When we allow the rights of some to be violated, the rights of all are not far behind."

The weeks-long detention of an 18-year-old U.S. citizen in South Texas prompted on Tuesday the latest calls for an immediate end to the Trump administration's aggressive, xenophobic anti-immigration agenda.

Rising high school senior Francisco Erwin Galicia of Edinburg, Texas is currently detained by ICE at South Texas Detention Facility, according to the Dallas Morning News, after being taken into custody by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

"As Trump stirs fear of immigrants to advance his racist agenda, the persecution of citizens of color is a dark, calculated outcome."
--Julian Castro, Democratic presidential candidate

Galicia was detained on June 27 while traveling to a college soccer tryout event near Dallas. When he, his brother, and several friends stopped at a CBP checkpoint, agents accused Galicia of having fraudulent identification--including his birth certificate which states he was born in Dallas, his social security card, and his Texas state ID.

"He's been here all his life," Galicia's lawyer, Claudia Galan told the Washington Post, but "when Border Patrol checked his documents, they just didn't believe they were real. They kept telling him they were fake."

Galicia was moved to the ICE detention facility this past weekend after weeks at a border station, where CBP agents fingerprinted him. His background check showed that his mother had acquired a tourist visa for Galicia when he was a child, inaccurately stating that he had been born in Mexico, so he could travel back and forth to visit family members. But even after Galicia explained his mother's mistake and his lawyer sent additional documents confirming his citizenship, "they ignored them," Galan told the Morning News.

"He's going on a full month of being wrongfully detained," she added. "He's a U.S. citizen and he needs to be released now."

News of Galicia's detention--and the immediate deportation of his brother, who was born in Mexico--came days after CBP provoked outrage in Chicago with its decision last week to hold three children in custody when they arrived at O'Hare International Airport following a trip to Mexico to visit relatives.

CBP agents said the adult they were traveling with was "deemed inadmissable and advocates said the three young U.S. citizens--ages nine, 10, and 13--were detained in order to bait their parents, who are undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) condemned the CBP before the children were eventually released, telling the Chicago Tribune that she viewed the incident as "a kind of kidnapping of children by our government."

"I'm really fed up with what we are doing," she added. "This is completely out of control."

The Week's Ryan Cooper also compared Galicia's detention to kidnapping by CBP.

Presidential candidate Julian Castro, a Texas Democrat, pointed out that Galicia's experience is rare but not unprecedented; between 2012 and 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported last year, immigration officials released nearly 1,500 people from custody after confirming that they were U.S. citizens.

"As Trump stirs fear of immigrants to advance his racist agenda, the persecution of citizens of color is a dark, calculated outcome," tweeted Castro. "Francisco Galicia was born in Dallas. His detention isn't an anomaly--it's a call to action. We must change our course."

Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) reported meeting a 13-year-old girl with a U.S. passport at Ursula Detention Center near McAllen, Texas.

CBP released the girl and her mother from custody last Friday under pressure from Barragan and other lawmakers.

"This should never happen again," Barragan said. "How many other U.S. citizens are being detained right now?"

The reports of numerous U.S. citizens being held in custody by the Trump administration also follows the government's announcement that, as Common Dreams reported, it would expand the "expedited removal" deportation process, allowing ICE and CBP agents to decide that undocumented immigrants should be deported if they've been in the U.S. for less than two years. The change, set to go into effect Tuesday, would bring about a new "show me your papers" regime, the American Immigration Council warned.

In order to fight the detention of U.S. citizens by immigration officials, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) suggested Monday night, Americans must push back against the Trump administration's violation of the rights of all immigrants and asylum seekers.

"When we allow the rights of some to be violated," tweeted Ocasio-Cortez, "the rights of all are not far behind."

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