American Teenager Detained by CBP, ICE for Three Weeks Says He Lost 26 Pounds Because He Wasn't Given Enough Food

An American teenager who was detained by U.S. immigration authorities for more than three weeks, despite being a citizen, was finally released on Tuesday.

Video of Francisco Erwin Galicia, 18, being released to his mother, Sanjuana Galicia, shows a tearful reunion as the two share a long embrace after nearly a month of the teenager's family fighting for his release.

Francisco, who was born in Dallas, Texas, was initially detained alongside his 17-year-old brother, Marlon Galicia, on June 27 after being stopped at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint in Falfurrias.

The two brothers had been traveling with a group of friends from Edinburg where they live to Ranger College in North Texas for a soccer scouting event when they reached the checkpoint.

While Francisco had his Texas ID on him, which can only be obtained with a Social Security number, Marlon only had his school ID on him, prompting CBP officials to take them into custody, despite the teens insisting they were U.S. citizens.

While Marlon signed a voluntary deportation form in order to be able to speak to his family, Francisco remained in detention for 23 days, being forced to live in conditions that he told The Dallas Morning News were so desperate he nearly followed his younger sibling in opting to self-deport.

While in custody, Francisco told the outlet that he lost at least 26 pounds because officers did not provide him with enough to eat. The teenager also said that he was not allowed to shower, leaving his skin dirty and dry.

Francisco was not alone in his suffering, of course. He said that he had been crammed into an overcrowded holding area where he and 60 other men were forced to sleep on the floor, with only aluminum foil blankets to keep them warm at night. Some men, he said, had to sleep on the floor of the restroom area.

The teenager said that some of the men he was detained with were bitten by ticks and were ill. He said many were too afraid to ask officers to visit a doctor because they said they had been told their stay would "start over" if they did.

"It was inhumane how they treated us," he said. "It got to the point where I was ready to sign a deportation paper just to not be suffering there anymore. I just needed to get out of there."

In a joint statement ICE and CBP told Newsweek that "generally, situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify."

"While we continue to research the facts of the situation, this individual has been released from ICE custody," they said, adding: "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."

While the agencies did not respond directly to Francisco's claims of being forced to live in overcrowded conditions with limited access to food and sanitation, they said that agents and officers work every day to provide meal service three times a day, including drinks and unlimited snacks, as well as to ensure proper access to sanitation.

Francisco's claims, of course, come after widespread reports on the desperate conditions migrant children and adults face in U.S. immigration detention facilities, with attorneys and lawmakers visiting facilities along the border and hearing migrants' accounts of limited access to sanitation, water and food.

ICE
A flag flies at the Metropolitan Detention Center on July 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. An 18-year-old U.S. citizen has been released from detention after being held by U.S. immigration authorities for three weeks. David McNew/Getty
American Teenager Detained by CBP, ICE for Three Weeks Says He Lost 26 Pounds Because He Wasn't Given Enough Food | U.S.