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An Arizona Border Patrol Agent Spent 6 Years Arresting Immigrants While Being Undocumented Himself

A former U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona was sentenced this past month to one year of probation and fined $1,000 for lying about being a U.S. citizen. Marco A. De La Garza, 38, spent almost six years as a Border Patrol agent on America’s southern border in Arizona. Officials found out De La Garza is a Mexican citizen during a background check in 2016 and when he applied for a U.S. passport in 2017.

As well as being a Border Patrol agent, De La Garza served five years in the U.S. Navy.

De La Garza was born in Mexico and lived with his mother in Mexico until 1999, when he was 19 years old. In 2003, De la Garza enlisted in the Navy and maintained an “exemplary service record” until he was honorably discharged in 2008

Despite not being a legal U.S. citizen, he had worked for CBP since 2012. This was all made possible by a Texas birth certificate from 1980 that was based off fraudulent information, according to The New York Times. De La Garza claimed he was born in Brownsville, Texas instead of his real birthplace of Matamoros, the Mexican city across the international border from Brownsville.

It was until he was 17 years old that De La Garza discovered that he wasn’t an American citizen. When he got the news he refused to believe it because he thought his parents were just trying to discourage him. Despite the birth certificate not being legitimate, De La Garza used it to claim American citizenship.

“Growing up, my parents told me that I was a U.S. citizen, and my whole childhood I was led to believe this was true,” in a letter he wrote to Judge Raner C. Collins. “Because of that, I grew up thinking I would do my duty one day and join the U.S. military.”

De La Garza agreed to plead guilty on one count of passport fraud, and the other two counts were dropped. In pleading guilty, De La Garza admitted that he lied in 2017 on his passport application. Due to his lack of any criminal history, he was sentenced to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine.

While De La Garza’s story is unusual it’s not the first time it has happened.

According to the NY Times, there have been three other instances of undocumented people working as Customs officers or Border Patrol agents who were prosecuted in federal court in recent years. The issue usually occurs when the government considers adding a large number of officers at the border.

The Trump administration has made it an initiative to have employers stop hiring illegal workers by utilizing more electronic verification tools and document checks. There has also been an uptick in the number of workplace raids being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since President Trump has taken office.

De La Garza’s story is indicative of the sometimes unknown work status of many industries in the U.S. where the labor of immigrants is considered crucial.

In a letter to Judge Collins, De La Garza said he was sorry for the incident and accepted responsibility for his actions.

“I should have pushed my parents more for information instead of dismissing it,” De La Garza wrote. “I realize how bad it could have been and how lucky I was to never have been blackmailed or taken advantage of, and for this, I am truly very sorry.”

At this time it’s still unclear if De La Garza will be allowed to remain in the U.S as he faces the possibility of being deported. His lawyer, Matthew H. Green, told the NY Times that he had been told that ICE officials have decided against removal proceeding at this time.

De La Garza plans to eventually legalize his immigration status and apply for citizenship one year after the date of his criminal conviction is finished. In his letter to the Judge, De La Garza asked for one final thing from the United States, a second chance.

READ: Advocacy Groups Suing ICE For Mass Raid In Tennessee, Claiming They Violated Workers’ Constitutional Rights

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