Congressmen Gonzalez, Allred and Group of Lawmakers Send Letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Morgan on Wrongful Detention and Treatment of U.S. Citizens
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Collin Allred (TX-32) and other lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan on the wrongful detention and treatment of U.S. citizens. This letter comes following the recent unlawful detention of U.S. citizen Francisco Erwin Galicia-Chapa who was detained at a Border Patrol checkpoint while on his way to a college soccer tryout even after presenting a valid Texas driver’s license.
The Members of Congress in their joint letter asked Brian Hastings, Chief of Law Enforcement at the CBP to clarify his statement when he testified before the House Judiciary that Mr. Galicia-Chapa “[a]t no time in Border Patrol custody sa[id] that he was a U.S. citizen.”
“Detaining lawful U.S. citizens at border checkpoints is not immigration enforcement,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “Francisco Erwin Galicia-Chapa and his family must now bear the mental and physical scars of something that never should have happened. We send this letter on their behalf expecting forthright and honest answers so that we may prevent this from happening again.”
“The reports around Francisco Erwin Galicia-Chapa’s detention were deeply troubling and we must ensure that something like this never happens again,” said Congressman Allred. “I thank Congressman Gonzalez for leading on this letter to get answers. The rights of U.S. citizens are sacred and no one should fear their own government. Our immigration system is broken, and this is further proof we must work together on comprehensive immigration reform to fix it.”
“Despite presenting proof of citizenship, CBP is continuing to detain U.S. citizens like Francisco. We must investigate this clear abuse of power. When a person in DHS custody - a child no less - claims to be an American citizen, the agency must take every step necessary to verify their status and restore their freedom immediately,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Castro. “It is critical that CBP answer our questions and conduct a thorough review of the agency policies that allow U.S. citizens to be detained for weeks without any recourse.”
Following the release of Mr. Galicia-Chapa, CBP unlawfully detained a 9 year old girl for 32 hours despite her being a U.S. citizen.
The following Members of Congress are co-signers of the letter: Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Darren Soto (FL-09), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Norma J. Torres (CA-35), David Cicilline (RI-01), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Val Butler Demings (FL-10), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Ben Ray Luján (NM-03), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Brendan F. Boyle (PA-02), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Gilbert Ray Cisneros (CA-39), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Nydia M. Velazquez (NY-07).
Full text of the letter below:
August 5, 2019
The Honorable Mark A. Morgan
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20229
Dear Acting Commissioner Morgan,
We write today to express serious concerns about the treatment of a U.S. citizen at the Border Patrol Checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas. It has long been a concern that our fellow citizens may be targeted by checkpoint personnel, and the facts and circumstances regarding the detention of Francisco Erwin Galicia-Chapa have substantiated these fears.
Mr. Galicia-Chapa, his attorney, and his mother presented documents early and argued often about his situation. Throughout this their cries were ignored, denied, and discounted until this matter became a part of the national news cycle, and was brought to the attention of members of Congress.
When reporting to Congress about this case, Brian Hastings, Chief of Law Enforcement at the U.S. Border Patrol testified that “[a]t no time in Border Patrol custody did [Mr. Galicia-Chapa] say that he was a U.S. citizen.” We know this is not the case, not only based on the word of the young man wrongfully detained, but also because the charging documents subscribed to by Acting Patrol Agent In Charge Sherman Kemp, signed June 29, 2019 indicate otherwise.
United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has a stated ethos that is represented to be a shared identity among your officers. According to the CBP website, the agency serves “the American people with vigilance, integrity, and professionalism.” As such, please answer the following questions so that our efforts to legislate a solution may be most impactful, and aid CBP and its personnel in attaining the ethos you strive for:
1. What tools do agents at the Falfurrias Checkpoint have to verify that a person is a U.S. citizen? Are these resources consistent across Border Patrol Checkpoints? Are there any requirements or protocols that ensure that these resources are consistently being used throughout Border Patrol Checkpoints?
2. What documents are required to transfer a person detained at a CBP checkpoint to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and were these documents presented in this case?
3. Of the following forms of identification, which are considered proof of citizenship by CBP: state driver’s license, social security card, or a state birth certificate? If not listed, please state which types of identification are acceptable proof of citizenship and why the aforementioned types are not.
4. Please indicate which documents Mr. Galicia-Chapa’s representatives or family members presented in an attempt to secure his release. When were these documents presented, and who were they presented to?
5. Which policies or procedures guided agents in their determinations to detain Mr. Galicia-Chapa? Which policies or procedures guided agents in their determinations to release Mr. Galicia-Chapa?
6. When did Mr. Galicia-Chapa first present documentation that he was a U.S. citizen?
7. What documentation did Mr. Galicia-Chapa present at the Falfurrias Checkpoint when his citizenship was questioned?
Please include in your answers any documents or recordings referenced, and any policy or procedural manuals that CBP personnel relied upon. It is our hope that you answer in a meaningful way so that we can work together to make sure that this never happens again.