Congressman asks Border Patrol chief to clarify testimony about U.S. citizen held for weeks
California congressman Ted Lieu has asked a U.S. Border Patrol chief to clarify the contradictory testimony he delivered to the House Judiciary committee last week on the detention of 18-year-old Francisco Erwin Galicia, a U.S. citizen who was held by immigration officers for more than three weeks.
Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement for U.S. Border Patrol, told members of Congress last week that Galicia never said he was a U.S. citizen to border agents when he was detained at the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias.
But Hastings’ statement contradicts paperwork that the Department of Homeland Security issued to Galicia.
Hastings told the House Judiciary committee that, “Throughout the process, and while he was with Border Patrol, he claimed to be a citizen of Mexico with no immigration documents to be in or remain in the U.S.”
“At no time in Border Patrol custody did he say that he was a U.S. citizen,” Hastings told the committee.
In response to Hasting's comment, Claudia Galan, the attorney representing Galicia, provided to The Dallas Morning News with Galicia's notice to appear in court, in which DHS accused him of falsely claiming to the Border Patrol that he is a U.S. citizen.
The notice reads, “On or about June 27, 2019, you were found at the Falfurrias, Texas, Border Patrol Checkpoint, a distance of more than 25 miles from the United States border with Mexico ... You did not receive the permission of an immigration officer to proceed beyond that 25 mile limit ... At that time, you falsely represented yourself to be a citizen of the United States for the purpose of furthering your entry into the United States.”
In a letter shared with The News by Lieu's office, the congressman asked Hastings to clarify his comments and explain why Galicia's claims of citizenship were never verified during the more than three weeks he was held.
Lieu on Monday told The News that Hastings' comments and the allegations in the notice to appear "can't both be true." Lieu's office gave Hastings an August 5 deadline to respond.
Lieu added that he is disappointed that Hastings didn't address the poor conditions that Galicia described in the Border Patrol facility during his testimony before the Congressional committee. Galicia told The News that he lost 26 pounds and wasn't allowed to shower in the 23 days he spent in Border Patrol custody.
Galicia said he was also forced to sleep in a crowded holding area with about 60 other men, some of whom slept on the restroom floor.
“The conditions he described are unacceptable for a U.S. citizen to face and for any human being to go through,” Lieu said.
Galan said she is hopeful that Lieu’s office keeps up the pressure on Border Patrol and that it’ll cause some policy changes that will help avoid cases like Galicia’s from repeating.
“Someone needs to hold DHS accountable because as we’ve said before, Hastings’ statement is incorrect and Francisco never should have been detained,” Galan said.
A CBP spokesman said that the agency would respond directly to Lieu's office.
CBP officials told The News in a statement last week that the agency had nothing further to add on Galicia's case.
The News first reported the story of Galicia's detention by CBP last Monday. The case has garnered international attention and Galicia was released less than 24 hours later.
Galicia was detained on June 27 alongside his younger brother Marlon Galicia and another friend. Marlon and the other friend both lacked legal status.
Francisco said he told Border Patrol agents that he is a citizen and presented them with a Texas ID, a Social Security card and a wallet-sized birth certificate, but he said agents doubted their validity immediately.
While in detention, Galicia was fingerprinted and agents discovered that a U.S. visitor's visa had been issued to Galicia when he was a minor.
Sanjuana Galicia, Francisco’s mother, said she solicited the visitor’s visa because Francisco didn’t have a U.S. passport. When he was born in Dallas, Sanjuana Galicia had a fake ID, and hospital staff used the name on that ID when filling out his birth certificate. Sanjuana Galicia feared the visitor's visa was the only document that would allow her son to easily travel across the border.