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American Teen Wrongfully Held by CBP and ICE for Nearly a Month

An 18-year-old from Dallas was detained for 26 days despite showing proof that he’s a U.S. citizen. Francisco Erwin Galicia was released from ICE custody on Tuesday after being stopped at a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoint in Texas while driving to a soccer scouting event with his brother and friends back in June.

Though his brother and others in the vehicle are not U.S. citizens, Galicia was born in Dallas and presented his social security card, a Texas-state identification card, and a wallet-size birth certificate to officials at the checkpoint. “I told them we had rights and asked to make a phone call. But they told us, ‘You don’t have rights to anything,'” Galicia told the Dallas Morning News.

Galicia and his younger brother were both taken into custody. His brother Marlon self-deported after just two days, but Galicia remained in custody for three weeks before he was even allowed a phone call.

Tensions at the U.S. southern border have continued to mount over the past several months with reports citing that active-duty U.S. troops have been stationed inside a border control holding facility in Donna, Texas, just an hour away from where Galicia was picked up, despite a federal law stating that active-duty troops cannot perform law enforcement duties within the U.S.

After three weeks he was transferred to ICE custody and permitted to call his mother who provided his lawyer with his original birth certificate. Apparently, he continued in detention because a tourist visa issued when he was a young child listed his birthplace as Mexico. His mother explained the error to immigration officials and provided additional documentation proving Galicia’s citizenship, but he still wasn’t released.

“It was inhumane how they treated us. 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,” Galicia told the Dallas Morning News after his release on July 23.

Galicia said he was held in an area with 60 other men and not given adequate food, describing that he lost 26 pounds while in the CBP facility. He said detainees slept on the floor with aluminum blankets and that some even had to sleep in bathrooms due to overcrowding. Galicia described that although some of the men were sick, they were too afraid to ask for medical attention.

Galicia was released on July 23, with ICE and CBP officials claiming that verifying the conflicting documents takes more time to substantiate. “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,” they said in a joint statement issued after Galicia’s release.

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