Can ICE Detain US Citizens? Francisco Galicia’s Case Isn’t The First
High school student Francisco Galicia, a U.S.-born citizen, was held for three weeks by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement after being detained at a CBP checkpoint near Falfurrias, Texas, on June 27, according to The Dallas Morning News. Galicia was released on Tuesday, one day after a Morning News report drew national attention to his case. But it's not an isolated incident. U.S. citizens are detained by ICE more than you think, some of them for weeks or years, and an attorney tells Bustle that ramped up ICE raids and the Trump administration's new "expedited removal" policy could make those arrests happen more frequently.
Galicia's mother, Sanjuana, told the Morning News that her son was going to a soccer scouting event at Ranger College when he and his 17-year-old brother, Marlon, who was born in Mexico and isn't a legal U.S. citizen, came up to a CBP checkpoint. Marlon only had his school ID on him, while Galicia had his Texas ID, according to the report. They were detained, and after two days Marlon signed a voluntary deportation form; he is now in Reynosa, Mexico, where he is staying with his grandmother, but is away from the rest of his family.
Galicia was detained for three weeks by CBP because his identification documents conflicted, the Morning News reported. His mother didn't want her real name on his U.S. birth certificate because she is not a legal citizen, and she also had applied for a Mexico tourist visa for him and had listed his birth country as Mexico, which "brings a conflicting claim on his U.S. citizenship," Galicia's attorney, Claudia Galan, told CNN.
In a joint statement from CBP and ICE emailed to Bustle, a spokesperson says Galicia "provided conflicting reports regarding status of citizenship" after he was detained by CBP and transferred to ICE custody.
"Situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify," the statement reads. "While we continue to research the facts of the situation, the individual has been released from ICE custody. Both CBP and ICE are committed to the fair treatment of migrants in our custody and continue to take appropriate steps to verify all facts of this situation."
Immigration rights activists say Galicia's case highlights a few major problems with how ICE officials stop and detain people. Those issues, combined with stricter immigration policies the Trump administration recently implemented, could lead to even more U.S. citizens being detained in the coming months — and perhaps even deported.
When And Why Do Immigration Officials Stop Someone?
Galicia's attorney alleges that racial profiling played a role in him and his brother being stopped at the Texas checkpoint. Bustle reached out to ICE and CBP regarding that claim, but Politico reports that, in most cases, agents will "glance" at drivers and let them pass without stopping them. So there isn't much rhyme or reason for when or why an ICE official will stop someone at a checkpoint, and there will be more opportunities for people to be stopped as ICE raids take place across the country.
"We can guess that there will be profiling involved," Jennifer Minear, an immigration employment attorney and president-elect at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, tells Bustle.
"The people who are going to get stopped are not white people like me who speak without an accent, but brown people who speak with accents," she says. "So it's going to be immigrant communities that are going to be the focus of these kinds of 'show me your papers' types of raids."
ICE can only arrest a person if they have a warrant or evidence that the person is a non-citizen, according to the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. But most people don't carry their passport on them all the time, and the burden of proof is on citizens to prove their citizenship.
Why Is This Happening Now?
U.S. citizens aren't supposed to be detained at all by immigration officials, but it has happened many times in the past. A 2012 Los Angeles Times investigation found that nearly 1,500 citizens had been detained by ICE for months or years while trying to prove their citizenship. CBP says it's supposed to hold detainees for no longer than 72 hours, but the Times found that one man had been held for more than three years.
Minear says that increased raids and checkpoints could result in more citizens being accidentally detained.
"I think it's just inevitable that people who are lawfully present are going to get swept up in those raids and are going to be detained inappropriately," she says. "Not only is it just wrong, but it creates liability for the government when they are detaining people who they have no legal basis to detain."
Additionally, the Trump administration released a new rule on Tuesday that could affect U.S. citizens detained by immigration officials. The administration announced that it would start enforcing an "expedited removal" rule that will allow an immigration officer to deport undocumented immigrants without giving them a hearing before a judge if they can't prove they have been in the U.S. continuously for more than two years, or if they don't have a credible fear of persecution or torture.
Minear notes the rule was published in the federal register on Tuesday without any notice and comment period, which allows the public and agencies or groups to comment on proposed rules.
"The goal of the administration in expanding expedited removal is to eliminate the need to detain people and give them due process, because we don't have the facilities that we need to detain the number of people that the government would like to deport," Minear says. "If we had to give them all due process and a day in court, then we'd be looking at exponentially increasing the number of resources that are currently allocated for detention beds and things of that nature."
In order avoid having to do that, Minear says the Trump administration is "kicking out" people who can't prove they've been in the United States for more than two years. She describes it as "a massive expansion of unilateral deportation power that should frighten all of us as Americans."