U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials detained a 9-year-old girl and U.S. citizen for more than 30 hours because she "provided inconsistent information during her inspection" at a port of entry, NBC7 reports.
Julia Isabel Amparo Medina is a Tijuana resident who attends school in the district of San Ysidro in San Diego, CA. The girl was traveling with her mother Thelma Galaxia, her 14-year-old brother Oscar, a family friend, and her two children Monday morning on their way to school.
Galaxia told NBC7 that because traffic was moving slowly at the San Ysidro port of entry, the two women told the children to cross on foot instead so she could call them an Uber that would take them to school on time. (An estimated 25,000 people, including U.S.-born students living in Mexico, cross the border between Tijuana and San Ysidro on foot every day. The Medinas' U.S. citizenship allows them the right to public education.)
But according to Galaxia, her children never made it across to the U.S. because Border Patrol officials detained them. The family alleges CBP accused the girl of lying about her identity after saying she didn't resemble her passport card picture, which was taken when she was younger. Officials allegedly told the 9-year-old that they believed she was someone else.
“My daughter told her brother that the officer told her that if she admitted that she was her cousin, she would be released soon so she could see her mom,” Galaxia told NBC. Officers allegedly made Oscar sign a document stating this, while the teen says he only agreed to it because he wanted to be reunited with his little sister.
Oscar was released later Monday. However, the process of reuniting the girl and her family took a day and a half. Customs and Border Protection stood by its decision to detain Julia. "It’s important that CBP officials positively confirm the identity of a child travelling without a parent or legal guardian,” CBP Public Affairs officer Jackie Wasiluk said in a statement. But the agency has not explained why the process took 32 hours.
“I was scared. I was sad because I didn't have my mom or my brother," Julia told NBC. "I was completely by myself."