Girl de­tained at bor­der for 30 hours de­spite be­ing Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen

The Buffalo News - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Matt Stevens NEW YORK TIMES

A 9-year-old U.S. ci­ti­zen was de­tained at a South­ern California bor­der check­point for more than 30 hours this week while au­thor­i­ties said they worked to ver­ify her iden­tity.

The girl, iden­ti­fied by NBC 7 San Diego as Ju­lia Is­abel Am­paro Me­d­ina, had been mak­ing her daily com­mute from Ti­juana, Mex­ico – where she and her 14-year-old brother, Os­car, live – to school in San Ysidro, Calif., on Mon­day, the sta­tion said. Be­cause traf­fic was mov­ing slowly, Ju­lia and Os­car opted to walk across the bor­der rather than wait in the car and risk tar­di­ness, ac­cord­ing to NBC 7, which first re­ported the story.

In an email Fri­day, a Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion spokesman said two children ar­rived at one of the San Ysidro port of en­try fa­cil­i­ties for pedes­tri­ans at 10:15 a.m. Mon­day. The children, whom the spokesman did not iden­tify, pre­sented a CBP of­fi­cer with U.S. pass­port cards, ac­cord­ing to the spokesman, Ralph DeSio.

“The younger child pro­vided in­con­sis­tent in­for­ma­tion dur­ing her in­spec­tion, and CBP of­fi­cers took the 9-year-old into custody to per­form due dili­gence in con­firm­ing her iden­tity and cit­i­zen­ship,” DeSio said.

He did not elab­o­rate on what in­for­ma­tion was in­con­sis­tent, say­ing only: “Some specifics of our tech­niques for de­ter­min­ing the true iden­tity of a per­son crossing the bor­der are law en­force­ment sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion.

In ad­di­tion, some de­tails of this case are re­stricted from re­lease due to pri­vacy con­cerns.”

A fed­eral of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of the case who was not au­tho­rized to speak about it said the 9-year-old had pro­vided in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to bor­der agents, which prompted a se­ries of pro­to­cols that agents were re­quired to con­duct.

The need to go through that process and en­sure that the girl was not a vic­tim of hu­man trafficking con­trib­uted to the length of her de­tain­ment, the of­fi­cial said.

Even­tu­ally, bor­der agents con­firmed that the teenager was a U.S. ci­ti­zen and he was per­mit­ted to en­ter the coun­try, DeSio said.

Then, around 6:30 p.m. Tues­day, the 9-year-old girl was ad­mit­ted to the United States and re­leased to her mother after au­thor­i­ties con­firmed her iden­tity and her cit­i­zen­ship, DeSio said.

“CBP pri­or­i­tizes the safety of the mi­nors we en­counter,” he said. “It’s im­por­tant that CBP of­fi­cials pos­i­tively con­firm the iden­tity of a child trav­el­ing with­out a par­ent or le­gal guardian.”

The episode in­volv­ing the children came as the agency is be­ing sued by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, which filed a law­suit last month on be­half of two Amer­i­can women who were stopped by a bor­der agent who said he was ask­ing for their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion be­cause he had heard them speak­ing Span­ish.

The cases have high­lighted con­cerns over the power of Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, whose agents have come un­der in­creased scru­tiny as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has sought to keep im­mi­grants from crossing the coun­try’s south­ern bor­der. Thou­sands of peo­ple travel through the Ti­juana-San Ysidro crossing ev­ery day for school or work.

Ju­lia’s mother, Thelma Galaxia, told NBC 7 that while Ju­lia was de­tained, agents ac­cused her of ly­ing about her iden­tity, say­ing that her pass­port photo did not look like her. Ju­lia told NBC 7 that au­thor­i­ties ac­cused her of be­ing her cousin rather than her­self, and said she was told that if she would ad­mit that she had lied about her iden­tity she would be re­leased.

“I was scared,” Ju­lia told NBC 7. “I was sad be­cause I didn’t have my mom or my brother. I was com­pletely by my­self.”

The children also told the sta­tion that agents had ac­cused Os­car of smug­gling and other crimes.

The fed­eral of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of the case de­clined to com­ment on the spe­cific al­le­ga­tions made by Galaxia and her children but said that, in gen­eral, a per­son who ap­pears to be ly­ing to Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers is sub­ject to in­creased scru­tiny.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.