A U.S. citizen, born in Los Angeles, according to his birth certificate, was detained by Customs Border and Protection (CBP) officials for nearly 24 hours in San Ysidro.
The man was reunited with his Utah family shortly after NBC 7 questioned the CBP's 12-hour policy, which says CBP typically tries to make a determination on a detainee's status within that time frame.
Luis Torres was crossing the San Ysidro border by vehicle with his daughter, Yesenia, and his two elderly parents, who are both legal permanent residents of the United States.
Yesenia Ibarra told NBC 7 the car was waived to secondary inspection where all the passengers were handcuffed and many of their documents, including Yesenia's passport, were confiscated.
Hours later, Yesenia was told to drive the vehicle across the border into the United States, and that information about her other family members could not be provided. One officer told her they were being held on suspicion of having fraudulent paperwork.
Yesenia said she left enough medication for her dad and grandparents to care for their heart conditions and diabetes before leaving.
She said more than 12 hours went by and she had not heard any updates on where her family was being kept. NBC 7 checked and discovered they had not been released to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement custody.
About 30 minutes after offering a CBP supervisor further documentation of the family's legal status, they were released from custody.
"I just hoped that they would let him out," Yesenia said about her father's release. "And believe that these were his actual papers and not kept them for over 24 hours."
"I gues overall we're fine. Now that we're all together again," Yesenia added.
A CBP spokeswoman released a statement that said, in part, that they cannot comment specifically on this case, but it is the responnsiblity of any person seeking entrance into the U.S. to have all the documentation needed to prove their citizenship status.
The full statement is below.
"CBP Officers review all available evidence at the time of application for admission to make a determination of admissibility. In all cases, the burden of proof rests with the applicant to demonstrate his or her admissibility.
"It’s important that CBP officers confirm the identity of each and every person who enters the United States. We routinely stop people who not only are not able to enter the U.S. legally, but also might have previous criminal histories or even active warrants for their arrest. Stopping these people who are trying to illegally enter the U.S. keeps our communities safer.
"Inadmissible aliens at U.S. ports of entry, include persons who arrive at the border crossing and weren’t legally admitted to the U.S. When someone arrives at a legal border crossing and is determined to be inadmissible, they may arrive in a number of ways – they may simply present themselves with no documents/legal status; they may try to use a counterfeit or altered document; they may attempt to hide from officers and enter without inspection (or run or drive past officers to enter without inspection); or they may be an imposter, attempting to use a real document that does not belong to them, for example.
"Individuals may be referred for enhanced screening for a variety of reasons, such as: prior convictions, criminal records for crimes of moral turpitude, inclusion on a national registry for sex offenders, prior immigration or customs violations, or may even be randomly selected.
"The Privacy Act prohibits CBP from commenting on individual travelers, however, each visitor to the U.S. is considered for admission on a case-by-case basis and may in some cases, be refused entry if a determination is made that the visitor is attempting to enter the country in violation of terms of their visa or other applicable U.S. laws. Any international traveler who seeks resolutions regarding difficulties they experience can use DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program."