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Undocumented Border Agent Says He Grew Up Believing He Was A U.S. Citizen

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard

A federal judge in Arizona on Thursday sentenced Border Patrol agent Marco De La Garza Jr. to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine. De La Garza had been indicted on three counts of passport fraud and making false statements on his application for a federal background check.

De La Garza was born in Mexico and wasn’t authorized to work in the U.S. Nevertheless, he had worked for Customs and Border Protection for almost six years.

After his indictment, De La Garza wrote that he had been “selfish in my desire to serve my country that I had so loved.” The New York Times reports that during the sentencing, the judge said his public service “ought to count for something.” Manny Fernandez, who reported on De La Garza’s case for the Times, says the 38-year-old provided CBP with a fraudulent birth certificate to get hired.

“That birth certificate and his lies helped perpetuate the lie and helped him get hired,” Fernandez said. “It raises a ton of red flags.”

De La Garza had also served in the U.S. Navy, and Fernandez said that gave him credibility when he applied for the federal job.

“It no doubt helped sway Customs and Border Protection to hire him,” he said.

De La Garza was born in Matamoros, Mexico, but said his parents told him from a young age that he was an American citizen. His parents eventually told him the truth when he started to express interest in joining the military, he said. Fernandez says De La Garza refused to believe his parents and continued to act as if he were a citizen.

Fernandez said that's a scenario that’s more common than some may realize.

“There are these cases of undocumented immigrants who sort of learn as they get older that their parents lied to them, and that they were not an American citizen and they were born in Mexico,” he said.

CBP didn’t give Fernandez an official response regarding De La Garza’s case. But in past cases of undocumented CBP officers, he said, the agency has said it’s always trying to improve its hiring and vetting processes.

Written by Caroline Covington.

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