A Texas-born U.S. citizen who was detained, questioned and deported to Matamoros, Mexico, in the middle of the night has been allowed to re-enter the United States, ending a nearly three-month ordeal.
Luis Alberto Delgado, 19, was carrying his American birth certificate, Social Security card and Texas ID when he was pulled over in a routine traffic stop on June 17, according to Houston immigration lawyer Isaias Torres, who represented him in his legal battle for repatriation.
A South Texas sheriff’s deputy who apparently believed the documents were not authentic handed Delgado over to U.S. border agents. After eight hours of questioning, Torres said, Delgado felt pressured to sign a document agreeing to voluntary removal from the country and waiving his right to a lawyer. The Border Patrol then drove Delgado to Matamoros and left him, he said.
He was finally able to return home over the weekend, Torres said.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection service said it could not comment specifically on Delgado’s case. But in a statement it said, “When an individual requests and is granted a voluntary return, they sign a notice of rights where they are admitting to being in the U.S. illegally and give up their right to a hearing in Immigration Court.”
Delgado was born in Houston, but spent much of his childhood in Mexico with his mother after she divorced his father and returned to her native land. Delgado, who speaks remedial English, did not speak to msnbc.com for this story. But Spanish-language newspapers have quoted him as saying that he believes he was discriminated against because of his poor language skills.
According to Torres, Delgado and his brother, 21, were pulled over by the deputy in Elsa, Texas, about 150 miles north of the border, purportedly for a seatbelt violation. When they were turned over to the border agents, Delgado’s brother was released, apparently because he had additional documentation -- registration for Selective Service and a receipt for a U.S. Passport application, he said.
But Delgado was questioned from about 4 p.m. until around midnight, when he agreed to sign the waiver in the mistaken belief that he would be able to return to the border city of Brownsville to solve the misunderstanding, Torres said.
“They kept saying, ‘These are not your documents. You’re lying to us. You’re going to go prison for 20 years’,” Torres said. “They basically wore him down. He’s a 19-year-old kid.”
While staying with cousins in a town near the border, Delgado tried to plead his case. When he was unsuccessful, his brother located immigration lawyer Torres, who took the case pro bono.
His mother traveled 600 miles from her home in Michoacan, Mexico, to be interviewed in support of her son, according to the Houston Chronicle, which first reported Delgado’s story on Monday.
Torres said Delgado’s case is unusual because he had proper documentation with him.
“I’ve had residents who were deported because they didn’t have their green cards (on them), but not a U.S. citizen,” Torres said. “This was basically a language thing. They thought he was lying because he doesn’t speak English well.”
But he said he anticipates this kind of situation will become more common because many U.S.-born kids are now being raised in Mexico.
“A lot of these kids born here are getting raised over there because their parents have been deported or they left because of the economy or whatever,” said Torres.
Delgado is planning to file a tort claim for negligence on the part of the federal officials, Torres said, but in the meantime he’s looking for work.
He lost his construction job when he disappeared suddenly, Torres said, adding that several people have e-mailed him offering jobs to Delgado since his story appeared in the Chronicle.