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Is ICE Trying to Deport This US Citizen? Francisco Galicia Remains in Limbo 2 Months After Release
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=51791"><span class="small">Obed Manuel, The Dallas Morning News</span></a>   
Monday, 07 October 2019 13:05

Manuel writes: "A dark cloud hangs over Francisco Galicia. About two months after his release from ICE custody, the U.S. government is still processing him for deportation - even after his story made national news and his attorney provided his Dallas County birth certificate to immigration authorities."

Francisco Erwin Galicia told The Dallas Morning News that he fears Immigration and Customs Enforcement is still trying to have him deported. (photo: Ryan Michalesko)
Francisco Erwin Galicia told The Dallas Morning News that he fears Immigration and Customs Enforcement is still trying to have him deported. (photo: Ryan Michalesko)


Is ICE Trying to Deport This US Citizen? Francisco Galicia Remains in Limbo 2 Months After Release

By Obed Manuel, The Dallas Morning News

07 October 19

 

rancisco Erwin Galicia is trying to get his life back to normal.

The U.S. citizen who spent almost a month in custody of U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has started his high school senior year.

He’s back on the soccer team at Edinburg’s Johnny Economedes High School in the Rio Grande Valley, and he’s waiting to hear back about a job at a grocery store.

But a dark cloud hangs over Galicia. About two months after his release from ICE custody, the U.S. government is still processing him for deportation — even after his story made national news and his attorney provided his Dallas County birth certificate to immigration authorities.

The Dallas-born 18-year-old was released from ICE custody less than 24 hours after The Dallas Morning News first broke the story of his detention on July 22.

Galicia was detained June 27 at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias while traveling to Ranger College in North Texas for a soccer scouting event with his younger brother and three other friends.

Francisco Galicia waits as a television journalist sets up cameras and lights in the Galicia family's living room on July 26, 2019.(Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)

He presented Border Patrol officers with his Texas ID and wallet-sized birth certificate and told them he was a citizen, but he said they didn’t believe him.

Officers detained him after fingerprinting him and discovering a visitors visa that his mother solicited for him as a minor. Galicia has dual citizenship but didn't have a U.S. passport. Without it, she said, she feared the visa was the only way he could legally travel back to the U.S. with her.

He was detained for 23 days in the Falfurrias Border Patrol holding facility. During that time, he said he was kept in the hielera — or "icebox," which migrants call the cramped holding cells — with about 60 other men and was not allowed to shower.

Galicia said he wasn’t fed properly, causing him to lose 26 pounds in 23 days.

His story was shared far and wide and even asked about during a Congressional hearing by California Congressman Ted Lieu.

But Galicia’s problem now lies with ICE.

“I just want it to be done. I want to get back to normal. I want them to finally believe me when I say that I’m a U.S. citizen and that they leave me alone,” Galicia said this week.

Galicia received a letter from ICE this past weekend informing him that the notice to appear in immigration court that he received in July — in which the Department of Homeland Security alleges that Galicia isn't a U.S. citizen and that he falsely claimed to be one — has been filed in the court of an immigration judge in Harlingen. He's now awaiting a court date.

The News reached out to ICE officials asking if the agency was still pursuing deportation proceedings against Galicia, if the agency has a way of verifying his citizenship and if the agency had not yet investigated his claim of U.S. citizenship.

ICE responded that, “As a matter of policy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not comment on pending litigation.”

The statement followed with, “However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations. As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s homeland security mission, our trained law enforcement professionals adhere to the Department’s mission and values, and uphold our laws while continuing to provide the nation with safety and security.”

Still in deportation proceedings

Two immigration attorneys specializing in deportation defense told The News that based on the fact that Galicia received this most recent notice, he remains in deportation proceedings until a judge cancels the proceedings or ICE terminates the case based on prosecutorial discretion.

Prosecutors for ICE, the agency charged with removing unauthorized immigrants from the U.S., may believe that they have enough evidence to continue pursuing Galicia’s case, said Sui Chung, an immigration attorney who focuses on removal defense and serves as chair of the national ICE committee with the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“It is ICE’s burden to prove that he is deportable, but if you as his attorney want to kill the case, then you have to show evidence to question why the case is still moving forward,” Chung said.

Chung added that the visitors visa that was issued to Galicia was sufficient enough proof for Border Patrol to hold him for a few hours. But the 23 days he spent in detention seemed like an excess and the current removal proceedings should probably have already been stopped, she said.

Internal ICE policy says that the agency is supposed to "carefully and expeditiously investigate and analyze the potential U.S. citizenship of individuals encountered by ICE." 

While in custody, Galicia said he lost 26 pounds and were only fed dry bologna sandwiches for breakfast and junior cheeseburgers for dinner.(Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)

Claudia Galan, Galicia’s attorney, said that on top of his telling ICE officers that he is a U.S. citizen, she faxed them his birth certificate along with a few supporting documents when he was transferred to ICE custody July 20.

Galan has also spoken to ICE officials twice since Galicia’s July 23 release, again detailing the evidence. She said one ICE officer told her a few weeks ago that he would consult with ICE attorneys, but Galicia still received the most recent notice.

That notice was in addition to an order he received to appear in immigration court when he was released. The original order did not provide a date or location for the appearance.

Galan said it's worrisome that the deportation proceedings against Galicia are continuing because he might end up waiting months for his day in court while trying to focus on graduating from high school.

“We’re going to have to go to court. I told [ICE] this is going to be a waste of resources for them. He can’t wait that long to continue his life,” Galan said.

If ICE hasn’t looked into Galicia’s claim of citizenship, that’s “the right hand and the left hand not talking,” said Patricia Corrales, a California-based immigration attorney who worked as an ICE prosecutor for more than 10 years.

Corrales added that ICE does have access to multiple databases and could have already confirmed the validity of Galicia’s Dallas County birth certificate.

“This speaks to a failure to train officers. The law is very clear, if you’re born in the U.S., then you’re a U.S. citizen regardless of whether you have a passport or not,” Corrales said. “Citizens should never be in deportation proceedings.”

Corrales said that Galicia’s quick release after his story gained national attention may have been a precautionary reaction by ICE to avoid being sued.

“ICE thought, ‘Whoops, we better let him go.’ And at the same time, they maybe failed to inform their colleagues of the evidence his attorney presented,” Corrales said.

Trying to get back to normal

Galicia’s taking U.S. government, economics, and physics, among other classes, in his final year of high school.

School counselors are advising him to take college entrance exams and apply to colleges. He said he’s not sure where to go, but ideally he’d like to land a soccer scholarship. He hopes to major in business management.

And of course, he’s been bombarded with questions about his detention by Border Patrol.

“Everyone asked me about what happened. I told them the truth,” Galicia said.

Sanjuana Galicia, left, leans in to her son Francisco's shoulder as they talk with each other outside their home on July 26, 2019.(Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)

Since his July 23 release, Galicia has been in and out of doctor’s offices. He’s managed to regain a lot of the 26 pounds he lost and is getting back to the tip-top physical shape he was in before being detained.

He’s also been attending psychological counseling.

“I didn’t want to go, but my mom wanted me to go. It’s mostly just talking that we do at the sessions,” Galicia said.

Sanjuana Galicia, Francisco's mother, was unable to regularly work her job of selling tamales around the Valley during the 26 days Francisco spent in CBP and ICE custody, putting a strain on the family's finances.

Immigration advocates set up a GoFundMe page for the family to help them pay for legal fees, medical costs and their overall expenses.

Galicia said he just wants to focus on school and enjoy his senior year.

“I’m just happy to be back with my family and my friends. To be with them, that’s what make things feel normal again,” Galicia said. “They’re the ones who give me strength.”

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Last Updated on Monday, 07 October 2019 13:52