Fabiola Santiago

He’s a U.S.-born citizen, yet Border Patrol and ICE kept him locked up for a month

Hear the words of detained migrant children

Children read the words of their peers held in U.S. Border Patrol facilities.
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Children read the words of their peers held in U.S. Border Patrol facilities.

He was doing nothing wrong.

He had papers.

Yet Francisco Erwin Galicia, U.S. citizen, spent almost a month in federal custody.

The 18-year-old was picked up and locked up by the Border Patrol in Texas as if he were a border crosser.

He wasn’t — and they knew it.

The high school senior with dreams of playing soccer in college was headed to a tryout with his brother and friends on June 27 when he came upon a Border Patrol checkpoint in his native Texas.

When agents asked for identification, he had plenty: a wallet-sized copy of his Texas birth certificate, a Texas ID card, and a Social Security card.

Despite his mother and his attorney’s pleas — and the bona fide certificate that says he was born at a Texas hospital — the Border Patrol handed Galicia over to ICE, which put him in the Trump administration’s fast and furious “expedited removal” proceedings.

He was given no benefit of the doubt, no right to post bail, no right to appear before a court to defend himself against the Border Patrol’s suspicions that his papers were “fake.”

Galicia is still on U.S. soil, his rightful soil, only because cross-country media reports about his ordeal called attention to his case. He was released Tuesday afternoon.

This case should scare you, Americans.

Citizens have the legal right to due process and people cannot be held endlessly without proof that a crime has been committed or without a court date to set bail. This case has repercussions beyond immigration law.

It seems as if the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol — an agency that has become a household name since President Donald Trump set its agents loose on the population in the name of apprehending undocumented immigrants — has been given carte blanche to violate civil rights.

Not only of the undocumented, who have rights under U.S. law too, but of citizens.

“The Trump administration’s new ‘expedited removal’ rule should terrify us all,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, tweeted Monday. “It will allow ICE officers to approach ANYBODY in the U.S. (w/o probable cause) & demand they prove they’re a citizen or have been in the US for 2 years. If they can’t, they’re deported. No trial, no hearing.”

All that power has been conveyed by President Trump upon an agency that in the last two years, we’ve witnessed engaging in this kind of behavior:

Profiling, detaining, and interrogating two U.S.-born Hispanic women out for eggs and milk at a convenience store in Montana for the sole “crime” of speaking Spanish. The women, who are suing, caught all the impropriety on video. It’s as if the United States of America didn’t have a constitution, and the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights didn’t confer on citizens freedom of speech.

Routinely harassing citizens who ride on Greyhound buses, one time to walk away with the grand prize of nabbing a Jamaican grandma with an expired tourist visa en route from Disney to Miami. Because deporting caretakers, without even notifying the family, is going to make America great again.

Posting racist, misogynist rants on a Facebook page with 9,500 current and former CBP member agents.

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The jailing of an American teenager — who by local accounts is a good student and a nice guy — is a new low for the Border Patrol, whose agents are embroiled in scandal after scandal for abusive practices like housing humans in overcrowded cages, denying them basic services like use of a toilet, shower, and a toothbrush.

When asked to account, the Border Patrol and ICE always have an excuse.

In Galicia’s case, it’s that his Mexico-born brother is undocumented as is his mother, who used a different name on Galicia’s legitimate birth certificate. His brother immediately signed voluntary removal papers and returned home. His mother fought hard for her son’s release.

She shouldn’t have had to hire a lawyer. Texas is his home.

How dare they keep an American in immigration detention?

Ethics not being their forté, the Border Patrol and ICE didn’t for a moment think what a month of incarceration would do to the psyche of a decent kid with only college on his mind before this ordeal.

A line has been crossed.

Our government has completely lost its moral compass — and we may never find it again unless Americans speak up loudly enough and with urgency.

One day, they will be coming for you, too.

And neither your birth nor your naturalization certificate guarantees due process anymore.

Award-winning columnist Fabiola Santiago has been writing about all things Miami since 1980, when the Mariel boatlift became her first front-page story. A Cuban refugee child of the Freedom Flights, she’s also the author of essays, short fiction, and the novel “Reclaiming Paris.”
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