U.S. citizens may be increasingly swept up in federal immigration custody amid new rule change

As the Trump administration hastens deportations, citizens may also find themselves detained unintentionally.

U.S. citizens may be increasingly swept up in federal immigration custody amid new rule change
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Checkpoint located in Falfurrias, 80 miles north of Mission, Texas on January 16, 2019. (Photo credit: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)

An 18-year-old U.S. citizen from Dallas, Texas has been in federal immigration custody for more than three weeks, The Dallas Morning News reported this week, the latest American to be wrongly swept up in immigration crackdowns across the country.

Francisco Erwin Galicia was traveling to a soccer scouting event in North Texas on June 27 when he and his 17-year-old brother Marlon came upon a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint. According to their mother, Sanjuana Galicia, Marlon — who is not a U.S. citizen — has traveled through border checkpoints on school trips before but was never asked for documents. This time, the only form of documentation he had on his person was a school ID.

Marlon was detained by CBP for two days before signing a self-deportation form, which he said he signed after being denied phone calls to his mother. He is currently in Reynosa, Mexico, with his grandmother.

“We were confident that we’d be able to pass. We were going to do something good for our futures,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “I didn’t imagine this could happen and now I’m so sad that I’m not with my family.”


Galicia, however, presented authorities with his state-issued Texas ID, which he had obtained with his social security card, but CBP was reportedly unconvinced and detained him regardless. For the three weeks he was in CBP custody, he was also unable to make phone calls.

His mother has shown CBP officials a copy of his original birth certificate, which shows he was born in Dallas, as well as his health insurance card, and high school ID. Still, none of that has been enough to free Galicia.

Galicia’s story, as unfathomable as it may seem, comes as a cautionary tale as the Trump administration seeks to expedite the deportation of any undocumented person who has spent less than two years in the United States.

A new rule, officially published in the federal register on Tuesday, would do away with the current requirement that expedited removal only be applied to undocumented immigrants arrested within 100 miles of a land border.

Instead, expedited removal would be implemented nationwide, potentially increasing the number of removals by over 20,000. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 297,000 undocumented immigrants living in the United States could be subject to this expansion.


Because the burden of proof is on the undocumented person in expedited removal proceedings, they must be the ones to prove to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer that they have been continuously present in the United States for more than two years.

Undocumented immigrants, the rule states, “who have not affirmatively shown, to the satisfaction of an immigration officer, that they have been physically present in the United States continuously for the two-year period immediately preceding the date of the determination of inadmissibility” would be immediately deported without judicial review.

This means that any undocumented person who fails to provide proper, convincing documentation to an ICE agent, regardless of how long they’ve been present in the United States, could be subject to deportation. That could include U.S. citizens like Galicia who, despite having an original U.S. birth certificate, remains in ICE custody because authorities didn’t believe him.

The rule will also undoubtedly impact black and brown U.S. citizens who are routinely profiled by law enforcement.

“He’s been here all his life,” Galicia’s lawyer, Claudia Galan, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “When Border Patrol checked his documents, they just didn’t believe they were real. They kept telling him they were fake.”

Galicia’s mother told the Post that she had taken out a U.S. tourist visa in his name years earlier, when he was a minor, which stated falsely that he had been born in Mexico and which may have triggered CBP and ICE suspicion. But, she added, she had only done so in order to ensure Galicia could travel across the border to visit family.

Despite explaining this to authorities, Galicia remains in custody.

That U.S. citizens are ending up in federal immigration detention is not exactly new, but is becoming a familiar occurrence under the Trump administration, which has frequently exercised enforcement over discretion.


During a visit to the Ursula Detention Center, a Border Patrol processing and detention center near McAllen, Texas, Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) met a Ecuadoran woman with her 13-year-old U.S. citizen daughter.

“Spoke to a mom and her U.S. citizen daughter who is 13 years old,” she tweeted on Friday, along with a photo of a U.S. passport. “They showed me her passport. She was born in NY.”

“I was shocked,” Barragán later told USA Today. “[I was] in shock about why there was an American citizen being detained in one of these facilities.

According to CBP, the daughter crossed the border from the United States to meet her mother. They were both subsequently apprehended when crossing back into the U.S. illegally.

The two were eventually released after Barragán’s visit. A CBP official told USA Today that the woman and her daughter were held “in custody at the Centralized Processing Center for about five hours and were released two hours after they were processed.”

“This should never happen again,” Barragán tweeted that evening, saying the two had only been released after pressure from herself and other lawmakers. “How many other U.S. citizens are being detained right now?”