A 9-year-old American citizen on her way to school was apprehended by U.S. immigration officials and detained for some 32 hours before she was released back to her family. Federal officials said later that the girl, who was carrying a U.S. passport card with her, gave “inconsistent information.”
“I was scared. I didn’t have my mom or my brother. I was completely by myself,” Julia Isabel Amparo Medina told NBC-7 TV in San Diego.
Medina, her 14-year-old brother and two friends were being driven to school by the friends’ mom from their home in Tijuana to San Ysidro last Monday. Thousands of people travel through the Tijuana-San Ysidro crossing daily for school or work.
When traffic slowed to a crawl, the mom told the children to walk across the border so they wouldn’t be late. An official detained Medina, saying she didn’t look like the photo on her passport card.
They finally released her Tuesday evening about 32 hours later. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that the girl, whom they confirmed is an American citizen, “provided inconsistent information during her inspection,” which they didn’t elaborate. She was taken into custody so officers could “perform due diligence in confirming her identity and citizenship,” according to the statement.
Officials had no explanation for why the process took 32 hours or why the 9-year-old was in custody the entire time.
Medina’s brother, who is also a U.S. citizen, said officials initially accused him of human trafficking and demanded he sign a paper saying that his sister was really his cousin.
“He was told that he would be taken to jail and they were going to charge him for human trafficking and sex trafficking,” Julia’s mom, Thelma Galaxia, told NBC.
Immigration agents’ shocking actions against citizens are being challenged in an ACLU lawsuit filed last month against CBP on behalf of two American women. They were stopped in a store in their Montana town by an immigration official because they were speaking Spanish. Both women were born in the U.S. As the agent demanded their identification, one of the women videotaped the encounter on her phone.
“Ma’am the reason I asked you for your ID is I came in here and I saw you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,” the agent said on camera. The ACLU is arguing the agent had no probable cause to detain the women.