US Customs and Border Protection officials detained a nine-year-old girl who was on her way to to school for more than 30 hours, despite her being a US Citizen.
Julia Isabel Amparo Medina and her brother Oscar Medina, 14, cross the border from Mexico to California every weekday to attend school in San Ysidro.
On Monday, the children were being driven by a family friend and her two children, when they reached standstill traffic at 4am.
To ensure that the children, who have US passports, made it to school on time, Michelle Cardenas told them to walk across the border, at which point she would order them an Uber.
However, Julia never made it to school, as she was detained by CBP officers who accused her of lying about her identity.
According to NBC 7, CBP officers reportedly told Julia that she did not look like the picture in her passport, and accused her of being her cousin Melanie.
The nine-year-old also said agents told her if she admitted she was her cousin, she would be released sooner.
Under pressure from agents, Oscar reportedly signed a document that said his sister was his cousin.
Border agents also allegedly accused the children of smuggling and other crimes, before taking the nine-year-old into custody.
A CBP spokesperson told The Independent Julia provided “inconsistent information during her inspection” and was taken into custody so agents could “perform due diligence in confirming her identity and citizenship”.
When the children’s mother Thelma Galaxia found out her daughter had been detained, she called on the Mexican consulate for help.
Galaxia also said her son was told he would be taken to jail and charged with human trafficking and sex trafficking during the incident.
After more than 30 hours, Julia was finally released to her family at the San Ysidro port of entry.
In a statement, US Customs and Border Patrol defended the decision to detain the nine-year-old.
“CBP prioritises the safety of the minors we encounter,” a spokesperson said. “It’s important that CBP officials positively confirm the identity of a child travelling without a parent or legal guardian.”
The CBP spokesperson declined to share information regarding how its agents confirmed Julia’s identity, or why it took so long, telling The Independent: “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.”
The family’s situation is not unique, as more than 1,000 students with US citizenship reportedly cross the border from Mexico into the US each day to attend school.