Things That Matter

This US Citizen Was Just Released From ICE Custody Where He Was Detained For More Than Three Weeks And Like How Is This Happening?

An American teenager who was detained by U.S. immigration authorities for almost a month, despite being a citizen, was finally released on Tuesday. Francisco Erwin Galicia, 18, who was born in Dallas, Texas, spent 23 days in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in conditions that he called “inhumane”. Galicia says he lost over 25 pounds during his time in a Texas immigrant detention center because officers there didn’t give him enough food. The conditions were so bad he reportedly almost opted to self-deport himself. 

So how did a legal U.S. citizen get detained by border officials and for this long?

Credit: @Qasimrashid / Twitter

Francisco had been traveling with a group of friends and his 17-year-old brother Marlon, who was born in Mexico and does not have legal status, from Southern Texas to Ranger College for a soccer event back on June 27th. That afternoon, the group came across a border patrol checkpoint where they were asked for documentation.

Marlon said he had passed through previous checkpoints without having to present paperwork but immigration agents handled things stricter this time around. While Marlon only had his had his school ID, Francisco had a Texas ID, a Social Security card, and his birth certificate. But that still wasn’t enough. 

According to CBS News, Francisco was detained because he did not have his passport and CBP agents suspected that his documents were forged. After collecting his fingerprints, they found out that Francisco had a U.S. tourist visa in his name that read that his birthplace was in Mexico. 

“They thought they were fake,” Francisco told ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA in an interview Tuesday. “I had all my papers, but they still didn’t believe me. I don’t know the reason why.”

His mother Sanjuana, who is an undocumented citizen, had gotten him the visa while he was still a minor and falsely listed his birthplace because she thought it was the only way he could travel to Mexico to visit family.

The brothers would eventually get separated and Francisco would be sent to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. 

Credit: @weau13news / Twitter

Marlon would sign a voluntary deportation form after two days in detention and would be placed with his grandmother in Mexico. But his brother would stay under CBP custody for three more weeks where he would endure harsh conditions. Despite Francisco’s lawyer, Claudia Galan, bringing the necessary documentation, including his birth certificate, to border officials, he was not released. The reasoning was the conflicting paperwork he originally presented. 

At the detention facility, Francisco was not allowed to make phone calls or even shower. “I told them we had rights and asked to make a phone call. But they told us, ‘You don’t have rights to anything’,” Francisco Galicia told the Dallas News.

Things would only get worse from there for Francisco.

Credit: @marshallproject / Twitter

Francisco described to the Dallas News about the conditions in CBP detention and how bad things got during his more than three week stay there. He says he heard about the tough conditions on TV but was completely different to go through it himself. 

“It’s one thing to see these conditions on TV and in the news. It’s another to go through them,” Galicia said.

He says he was crammed into an overcrowded holding area with 60 other men and all had to sleep on the floor and were given only aluminum-foil blankets as cover. Some men even slept on the bathroom floor. They were also bitten by ticks and many got sick throughout his stay. He said that many of the men were too afraid to ask officers to see a doctor because they said they had been told their stay would “start over” if they did.

After a total of 23 days in detention in CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, Francisco was finally released this past Tuesday. Now, many are looking for answers not only about his detention but the horrid conditions the 18-year-old described.

Credit: @lauraswift79 / Twitter

CBP and ICE officials have yet to respond to Galicia’s claims of poor conditions at the holding facility but did issue a joint statement Wednesday about detaining him. 

“Generally, situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify,” the statement read. “While we continue to research the facts of the situation, this 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.”

Many on social media were angry to find out the conditions in the detention facilities. One user on Twitter questioned how this could happen, especially to a legal U.S. citizen. 

“This is heartbreaking & ridiculous!  How can we treat other human beings this way & be okay with it?!?!?!  Makes me sick to my stomach.  #humanityFirst  Francisco Erwin Galicia says he wasn’t allowed to shower for 23 days in ICE custody.”

Despite all this, Francisco’s mother said she’s just glad to have her son back home with his family. 

“I’m just so thankful to God and to everyone who spoke up about my son’s situation. she said. “I’m glad to have him back home, but I need my other son back.”

READ: An Autopsy Reveals Harrowing New Details About A Guatemalan Teen Who Died In Border Patrol Custody

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