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A Texas-born teen wrongly held at a South Texas Border Patrol facility for 23 days says conditions there were so bad that he almost decided to self-deport — even though he’s a U.S. citizen.
Francisco Erwin Galicia spent more than three weeks in Customs and Border Protection custody after being arrested at a Border Patrol checkpoint in late June along with his brother. He lost 26 pounds during his 23-day detention in the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall, Texas, because officers didn’t give the detainees enough food, Galicia told the Dallas Morning News, which first broke the story of his arrest.
“It was inhumane how they treated us,” said 18-year-old Galicia. “It got to the point where I was ready to sign a deportation paper just not to be suffering there anymore. I just needed to get out of there.”
Galicia told the News he was held in a holding area with 60 other men, many of whom were sick. The group was forced to sleep on the floor because there were no beds in the station. Galicia wasn’t allowed to shower throughout the duration of his stay.
Galicia and his brother, Marlon, were arrested by Border Patrol agents after being stopped at a checkpoint on their way to a soccer scouting event. Marlon and another person in the car didn’t have legal status, but Galicia, a U.S. citizen, showed the officers his state ID, Social Security card, and a small birth certificate.
He was detained anyway.
The brothers were held at the checkpoint for a day before being moved to a CBP holding facility, according to the News’ report. Galicia says they weren’t allowed to make phone calls, and the boys’ mother only found out about the arrest after Marlon decided to self-deport to Mexico.
In a joint statement to the News on Wednesday, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they detained Galicia because of conflicting documents. After Galicia was fingerprinted at the checkpoint, Border Patrol officers discovered that he had a tourist visa saying he had been born in Mexico.
“Generally, situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify," the agencies’ statement said. "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.”
Galicia’s mother told the News that she got the visa for him when he was a minor, because she thought it was the only way she could travel across the border with her U.S. citizen son.
The conditions Galicia faced in detention are egregious, but they aren’t unusual — they echo reports of overcrowding, filth, and disease in Border Patrol stations across the Southwest.
“It’s one thing to see these conditions on TV and in the news,” Galicia said. “It’s another to go through them.”
Cover: This Feb. 10, 2009 file photo shows the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)