BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A 20-year-old native Texan says she’s barred from re-entering the country after she denied, under grilling by the U.S. Border Patrol, that she was a U.S. citizen.
Weslaco, Texas, native Brenda Vazquez made the false statement in a signed statement Feb. 19 after seven hours of intimidation by aU.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, according to a federal court petition filed by her attorney,Jaime Diez, of Brownsville. The officer then confiscated the Texas driver’s license and U.S. birth certificate she presented upon her return from a visit to the Mexican border city of Matamoros, according to the petition.
Vazquez remains stranded in Matamoros, barred from the United States, Diez told The Brownsville Herald for a story in Sunday’s edition.
A Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman did not respond to a request byThe Associated Press for comment Sunday.
Diez said he has asked Texas Health and Human Services for a copy of Vazquez’s birth certificate but was told it could not because Customs and Border Protection had provided a copy of the statement Vazquez signed.
In her court petition, she asks that a federal judge declare her a U.S. citizen, order her documents return, declare that her civil rights have been violated and award attorney’s fees and whatever other relief the judge deems appropriate.
“The emotional impact is really something,” Diez told the newspaper of his clients who remain separated from their families and jobs, sometimes for years. “It doesn’t go away once the documents come back.”
The Vazquez petition comes on the heels of a recent complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that alleges several examples of coerced denial of U.S. citizenship and denied re-entry similar to what Vazquez alleges.
“They were under so much stress that they were willing to do whatever to get out of that situation,” Diez said of the intensity of Border Patrol questioning. He said he has multiple clients who were questioned for hours without food, water or the chance to contact an attorney.
San Benito lawyer Lisa Brodyaga said she represented a man several years ago who was a U.S. citizen denied re-entry into the United States at Laredo. She said he was handcuffed to a chair for hours until he said he had been born in Mexico, even though he was born in a McAllen hospital.
Once someone signs a statement denying U.S. citizenship, years can be needed to knock it down, Brodyaga said.
Diez said he hopes the cases change how Border Patrol officers handle interrogations.
“We understand they have a very difficult job doing their work,” he toldThe Herald. “If someone was born in the U.S., if they have doubts, they need other ways to resolve those doubts than putting someone in a room for seven hours without access to an attorney.”
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