- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 2, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) - A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in Arizona was sentenced to a year of probation after pleading guilty to lying about his citizenship on a passport application.

Marco Antonio De La Garza Campos has acknowledged telling authorities that he was born in Texas, when he was actually born in Mexico.

De La Garza, who was sentenced Thursday in Tucson, had worked for the federal agency for six years and had been stationed at the border city of Douglas. He previously served five years in the U.S. Navy.

Over the years, the federal government has been criticized for not performing adequate background checks on people seeking jobs as border officers. The issue usually crops up when the government considers adding a large number of officers at the border.

In pleading guilty, De La Garza acknowledged that he lied in 2017 on a passport application by saying he was born in Brownsville, Texas, when he was actually born in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

Investigators said De La Garza used a false Texas birth certificate to enter the United States.

In a letter to the sentencing judge, De La Garza said he was sorry for his crime and accepted responsibility for his actions.

He said he lived with his mother in Mexico until he was 19 and that his parents told him when he was growing up that he was a U.S. citizen.

“I should have pushed my parents more for information instead of dismissing it,” De La Garza wrote, adding that he would like to legalize his immigration status in the future.

De La Garza’s current immigration status is unclear.

His attorney, Matthew Green, said in court records that De La Garza will be eligible to apply for naturalization one year after the date of his conviction.

Green wrote that if his client is allowed to remain in the United States, he’ll serve as a stay-at-home father for his two young children, in an effort to reduce family expenses. When they are old enough to go to school, he’ll seek a job, Green wrote.


Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud.

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