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US Teen Wrongfully Detained By ICE Lost 26 Pounds Over 23 Days In Custody

Francisco Erwin Galicia, an 18-year-old from Texas, says he was wrongfully detained by ICE for 3 weeks

An 18-year-old American citizen was wrongfully detained by U.S. border patrol for more than three weeks, where he lost 26 pounds and says he wasn’t given enough food in detention. Francisco Erwin Galicia says he wasn’t allowed to shower and was unable to sleep underneath the foil blankets in the overcrowded holding area where he was forced to reside.

Galicia tells The Dallas Morning News that he was detained by ICE agents during a checkpoint and that they suspected he was in the U.S. illegally — even though he was carrying a legal Texas state ID and showed them his birth certificate. Border Patrol and ICE ignored the facts presented to them and detained him for almost a month anyway, until his release last week.

He and his brother were apparently traveling from the border town of Edinburg, Texas, to Ranger College for a soccer scouting event when Galicia was stopped and captured. Even though the authorities responsible for detaining him were presented with Galicia’s proof of birth, they claimed to have found a conflicting report that showed he was born in Mexico.

According to Buzzfeed News, Galicia’s mother, who is not living in the U.S. legally, took out a tourist visa for her son, listing his birthplace as Mexico, so he could cross the border and visit relatives. She was unable to secure him a U.S passport because her name didn’t match how she had identified herself on his birth certificate.

“They thought they were fake,” Galicia tells WFAA News. “I had all my papers, but they still didn’t believe me. I don’t know the reason why.”

Eventually, the matter was cleared up between ICE and Galicia’s family lawyer. But not before he spent 26 days in custody in the abysmal conditions that led to his drastic weight loss. “There were up to 70 people in a room,” he tells WFAA. “They wouldn’t let us brush our teeth or go to the bathroom. There were people who were very sick inside, and it’s really inhumane the way we were treated.”

A joint statement by ICE and CBP noted that Galicia had provided conflicting reports about his citizenship:

“Situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify,” the statement says. “While we continue to research the facts of the situation, the individual has been released from ICE custody. Both CBP and ICE are committed to the fair treatment of migrants in our custody and continue to take appropriate steps to verify all facts of this situation.”

Though the situation doesn’t end there for the Galicia family. Francisco’s 17-year-old brother Marlon was also detained at the checkpoint and taken into custody. He actually was born in Mexico and did not have legal authorization to live in the U.S., so after spending two days in custody he signed a voluntary deportation order and now must reside with his grandmother in Mexico.

Galicia’s attorney, Claudia Galan, says she believes her client was profiled and that she plans to file a lawsuit on his behalf against both agencies in the coming weeks. “Their job is to deport people. Their practice is to be tough,” Galan says. “But they should have looked into his claim from day one. They had the documents.”