Edinburg teen released after wrongful detainment

ICE apprehended soccer standout despite showing proof of US citizenship

U.S. citizen Francisco Galicia, 18, gets a hug from his attorney, Claudia Galan, after his release from the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall, Texas, Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Galicia was released from immigration custody Tuesday after wrongfully being detained for more than three weeks. Galicia lives in the border city of Edinburg, Texas, and was traveling north with a group of friends when they were stopped at a Border Patrol inland checkpoint. According to Galan and the Dallas Morning News, agents apprehended Galicia on suspicion that he was in the U.S. illegally even though he had a Texas state ID. (Kin Man Hui/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

EDINBURG — After nearly a month in detention, Edinburg student-athlete Francisco Erwin Galicia was released Tuesday afternoon.

Following an interview with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, McAllen-based immigration attorney Claudia Galan confirmed to the media that her client, Galicia, had been released from custody after being held since Saturday at the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas. His detention came despite presenting a birth certificate showing that he was born in the U.S.

This Feb. 10, 2009 file photo shows the South Texas Detention Center is seen in Pearsall, Texas. An 18-year-old who was born in the U.S. has been released from immigration custody after wrongfully being detained for more than three weeks. Francisco Erwin Galicia left a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Pearsall, Texas, on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (Eric Gay | The Associated Press)

Nearly one month ago, on June 27, Galicia, his younger brother and a few others were headed to the Dallas-Fort Worth area on a recruiting trip in hopes of impressing coaches at Ranger College enough to earn a soccer scholarship.

Instead, a little less than an hour into the trip, Galicia and those in his group, including his brother Marlon, were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents after being asked for additional paperwork during their stop at the Falfurrias checkpoint.

Galan said Galicia, 18, is a U.S.-born citizen and was born in Dallas in 2000. Galicia’s mother, San Juanita Galicia, had moved the family back to the Rio Grande Valley around 2002.

She said Galicia provided to the Border Patrol agents a wallet-sized birth certificate showing that he was in fact born in Dallas in 2000, but he was not released.

His attorney believes agents held Galicia despite his birth certificate because of an issue with an additional document that showed he was born in Mexico and not in Dallas, as stated on his birth certificate.

“The problem is that he has a Mexican Tourist Visa,” Galan said. “At the time that his mother registered his birth certificate, she used a fake name. Because of that name on the birth certificate, she could never get him a passport, and she never corrected the birth certificate to get him a passport. Instead of doing that, she thought it would be easier to get him a tourist Visa listing him as being born in Mexico.

“So there is a conflict of his nationality, and that’s why he’s still detained.”

In this 2012 file photo, documents sit on the trunk of an ICE agent as they prepare to go to a home Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Brownsville. In an unrelated case in July 2019, an Edinburg teenager is being held by ICE at a Pearsall, Texas facility despite presenting a birth certificate showing that he was born in Dallas in 2000. (Nathan Lambrecht | The Monitor)

Still, Galan further noted that Border Patrol agents had his birth certificate “from day one,” and that his brother had said he overheard Border Patrol agents “checking the database and saying that he did appear in the database as being born in Dallas, Texas, and that he was a U.S. citizen.”

Galan added: “So Border Patrol did confirm this information yet they kept him under custody.”

Marlon Galicia, on the other hand, did not have legal status to remain in the U.S. and opted to be deported to Reynosa, Mexico, where he has relatives. The other two in the group were ultimately released from custody, Galan said.

Upon arriving in Reynosa two days after being detained, Marlon Galicia contacted his mother about the situation and about what happened to his brother.

The attorney said Galicia was finally able to make contact with his family on Saturday after he was placed in ICE custody.

Before Saturday, Galicia’s family, and Galan, had no idea where the teenager, a student-athlete at Edinburg Economedes High School, was being held and still don’t know where he was held prior to Saturday. Marlon Galicia is also a student-athlete at Economedes.

Economedes soccer coach Sam Gonzalez had been out of town and said he wasn’t aware of his players being detained until Francisco and Marlon Galicia’s mother called him last week to inform him.

“They hadn’t told me they were going on the trip, but they don’t have to,” Gonzalez said, adding that the soccer players were on their way to Ranger College. “We try to get our kids out there, playing in front of college coaches and trying to help them all the time.”

Gonzalez said the Galicia brothers had played in the Edinburg system, either through club teams or for Economedes since they were in elementary school.

Both played defense for the Jaguars and Francisco Galicia, who is a rising senior, was named to the 31-6A all-district team as a defender this past season, Gonzalez said.

“He is a good player and has played varsity since he was a freshman,” Gonzalez said of his team captain. “Both of them have been getting letters and offers from universities and other colleges. They are good kids. They are respectful and get good grades.”

Economedes Athletic Director Gabe Peña, who was in Houston at a Texas High School Coaches Association conference, said on Tuesday that he hadn’t been informed of Galicias’ detention.

Galan, who visited at a border patrol facility trying to find other clients she represented, said attorneys for Border Patrol told her that because Galicia had not given his permission that his information be released, they could not tell them where he was being housed.

Asked why they could hold someone like Galicia for so long without contacting or allowing for him to contact his family, Galan did not have an answer.

“Apparently they can,” she said. “They’re not letting their family members know where they’re located. Francisco is not the only client that I’m looking for. …Others are held for a long time, sometimes waiting 30 or 40 days.”

As for Marlon Galicia, who remains in Reynosa with his grandmother, Galan said she will likely work to get a relative to help with a petition for him to re-enter the country.

Monitor staff writer Henry Miller contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to reflect that a coach did not accompany the students.