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9-year-old US citizen detained at the border for more than 30 hours
A 9-year-old United States citizen was detained by Customs and Border Patrol officials for more than 30 hours this week after she tried to cross the U.S-Mexico border on her walk to school.
The young girl, identified by a local NBC station as Julia Isabel Amparo Medina, was making her daily commute with her 14-year-old brother, Oscar, on Monday from their home in Tijuana, Mexico, to school in Ysidro, California, according to the station.
But due to heavy traffic at the time, the two reportedly decided to continue their commute by walking across the U.S.-Mexico border instead of waiting in the car for fear of being tardy for class.
Ralph DeSio, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told The New York Times that the two kids arrived at a San Ysidro port of entry facility for pedestrians shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday. The representative said both children had United States passport cards at the time.
"The younger child provided inconsistent information during her inspection, and C.B.P. officers took the 9-year-old into custody to perform due diligence in confirming her identity and citizenship," the spokesperson said.
Border agents eventually confirmed Oscar was a U.S. citizen and was able to enter the country. But Julia wasn't released to her mother until after 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
"C.B.P. prioritizes the safety of the minors we encounter," he said. "It's important that C.B.P. officials positively confirm the identity of a child traveling without a parent or legal guardian."
An unnamed federal official with knowledge of the case told The Times that border officials were prompted to carry out a series of protocols because Julia had provided them with inaccurate information.
The official said agents were required to adhere to the protocols to verify confirm the young girl was not a human trafficking victim, which the official said is partly to blame for the length of Julia's detainment.
But Thelma Galaxia, Julia's mother, told the station that while her daughter was detained, officials accused her of lying about her identity.
"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 said.
Julia's older brother also told the station that official accusing him of smuggling and committing other crimes he said he did not understand.
"He was told that he would be taken to jail and they were going to charge him for human trafficking and sex trafficking," Galaxia said.
"I was scared. I was sad because I didn't have my mom or my brother. I was completely by myself," Julia said of the ordeal.
The unnamed federal official with knowledge of the case refused to speak to The Times about the family's allegations but said, in general, that those Customs and Border Protection officers suspect of lying are subjected to increased scrutiny.