Judge Awards Over $1 Million to 2 US Citizen Children Detained Crossing Border
Judge Awards Over $1 Million to 2 US Citizen Children Detained Crossing Border

By Katabella Roberts

Two American children who were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border to go to school will be awarded over $1 million in compensation, a federal judge in California has ruled.

U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of California Gonzalo Curiel issued the order on June 21.

The order stems from a lawsuit involving Oscar Amparo Medina and his sister Julia Isabel Amparo, who were 14 and nine years old, respectively, in March 2019, when they were detained by border patrol agents at the Tijuana-San Ysidro, California, border crossing.

According to the lawsuit—filed by their parents on their behalf—the two children lived with their parents and siblings in Tijuana, Mexico, and had been on their way to school in San Ysidro when the incident occurred.

Julia was detained by officers for approximately 34 hours, and Oscar for roughly 14 hours, because officers suspected them of lying about their identities, with officers initially believing Oscar may have been attempting to smuggle or traffic his younger sister.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit had sought to hold the United States liable under the FTCA for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.

“Common sense and ordinary human experience indicate that it was not reasonable to detain Julia for 34 hours to determine her identity or to detain Oscar for about 14 hours to determine whether he was smuggling or trafficking his sister when multiple means of investigation were available and officers unreasonably failed to pursue them,” Judge Curiel wrote in his ruling.

In a statement provided to media outlets, a CBP spokesperson said the agency “takes all complaints seriously and makes a good faith effort to resolve all complaints justly and fairly, including complying fully with orders issued by the federal district courts.”

Identification Issues

According to the lawsuit, both children were born in the United States and are U.S. citizens; however, their mother, Thelma, is a Mexican citizen who possesses a valid U.S. Border Crossing Card, and their father does not have the legal status or a visa to enter the United States.

The two children showed their valid U.S. passport cards to agents when attempting to cross the border into the United States via the pedestrian border crossing in March 2019, the complaint states.

However, when presenting their identification cards to border agents, one of the agents noticed a “dot on Julia’s photo that appeared to be a mole on her upper lip, which was not visible on Julia in person.”

Julia also showed agents a school identification from her former elementary school in Mexico, which also “did not resemble Julia,” according to court documents.

During further interrogation, an officer then allegedly “came up with the idea that Julia was her cousin Melany, and then pressured Julia into agreeing,” the lawsuit claims.

Lawyers for the United States vehemently rejected that claim and argued that “Julia and Oscar stated that Julia was Melany unprompted and then continued to say that throughout their interviews.”

A man crosses into the United States from Mexico into San Ysidro, Calif., on Feb. 2, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Conduct Was ‘Extreme and Outrageous’

The mother of the two children was not contacted when they were detained, according to the lawsuit.

After the children were released by border agents, they suffered mental stress, grief, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress, lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in the lawsuit.

In his ruling, Judge Curiel concluded that the United States’ conduct was “extreme and outrageous” and that it had violated the rights of the two children.

The judge also noted that one of the CBP officers who interviewed Julia in private did so without a witness or a recording of the incident, violating CBP policy. This led to a “false confession,” he said.

“Since the confession was not recorded, witnessed or even recounted in any written detail, it will never be known why a 9-year-old U.S. citizen falsely confessed to being someone she is not,” the judge wrote.

“CBP violated the directive that its officers not interview minors alone,” he added.

“Although reasonable suspicion may have existed initially to believe that Julia was making a false claim of citizenship by fraudulently using the passport card of another, the duration of her and Oscar’s detention was unreasonable and in violation of the Fourth Amendment because officers repeatedly failed to take available steps to investigate their suspicions and failed to follow CBP’s own policies and precautions regarding the treatment of detained minors,” the judge concluded.

Judge Curiel awarded $1.1 million in damages for Julia, $175,000 for Oscar, and $250,000 for Thelma.

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