Another delay in trial of CBP officer accused of being Mexican citizen

Marco Antonio De la Garza Jr.

TUCSON — For the fourth time in six months, the federal trial of a former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer accused of claiming he was born in America instead of Mexico has been postponed.

Marco Antonio De la Garza Jr. was to stand trial Tuesday on charges of making false statements about his birth and citizenship during a routine five-year background check and on a passport application. He used a birth certificate showing he was born in December 1980 in Texas, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office claims birth and school records show De La Garza was born in October 1980 in Mexico.

Last month Chief Judge Raner Collins delayed the trial start date until Dec. 11 at the request of defense attorney Matthew Green. It is the fifth trial date in the case since De La Garza’s arrest in February.

“Although the prosecutor and defense counsel are optimistic that this case will be resolved by plea agreement, should this case proceed to trial additional time will be required to prepare defendant’s case and to prepare the defendant to testify,” Green told the judge. “This motion is made in good faith and not for the mere purpose of delay.”

De La Garza is an honorably discharged U.S. Navy veteran who lives in Hereford with his wife and two children. At the time of his arrest in February, he was assigned to the Port of Entry in Douglas.

One reason the defense has sought delays in the case is federal laws which require deportation of non-U.S. citizens in the event of certain criminal conviction.

“The issues being considered are not limited to Mr. De La Garza’s criminal exposure, but also extend to considerations of immigration consequences of potential criminal convictions,” Green noted in a recent court filing. He added the defense is hoping to “creatively” craft a plea deal by which any outcome would “reduce the likelihood of deportation.”

The judge has set a Nov. 21 deadline for informing the court of a plea deal.

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