18-year-old U.S. citizen detained by border officials said conditions were so bad he lost 26 pounds, almost self-deported

By Caitlin O'Kane

/ CBS News

Francisco Erwin Galicia, the 18-year-old Dallas-born U.S. citizen detained by border officials, is speaking out about the conditions inside the facility where he was wrongfully held for more than three week. Galicia said conditions were so bad, he considered self-deporting just to get out — even though he has a birth certificate proving he's American-born.

During the 23 days he was in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Galicia was not allowed to shower, he told The Dallas Morning News, which first reported his story.

The teen said he lost 26 pounds during his time in the immigrant detention center, and said officers didn't provide him with enough food. He was crammed into an overcrowded holding area with 60 other men. They slept on the floor with aluminum-foil blankets — some even had to sleep in the bathroom area, he said.

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Some of the men were very sick and were bitten by ticks, but were afraid to ask for a doctor because CBP officers told them their stay would start over if they did, Galicia said.

U.S. citizen Francisco Galicia was detained by border officials for 23 days. During that time he did not shower, and he lost 26 pounds because he was not provided with adequate food, he said. Kin Man Hui / AP

"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," he told the newspaper. "It's one thing to see these conditions on TV and in the news. It's another to go through them."

Galicia's brother Marlon, who was born in Mexico and is not a U.S. citizen, decided to agree to deportation after two days in the facility.

The brothers were not allowed to make phone calls while being detained. Marlon was deported to Mexico, but Galicia stayed until he was moved into ICE custody, where he was finally allowed to call his mother.

His lawyer, Claudia Galan, brought necessary documentation, including his birth certificate, to border officials, but they continued to hold him. She told the newspaper it appears he was detained due to conflicting information on a visa his mother had used for him as a child. Finally, on Tuesday, Galan announced Galicia had been released.

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U.S. citizen Francisco Galicia, 18, gets a hug from his attorney, Claudia Galan, after his release from the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall, Texas, Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Kin Man Hui / AP

Galicia spoke to The Dallas Morning News one day after his release. He said when he and his friends drove up to a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, he presented his Texas I.D., Social Security card and a wallet-sized birth certificate. The agents refused to believe he was a citizen and took him into custody.

"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 paper.

Galicia, his brother and friends were on their way to a soccer scouting event at Ranger College when they were stopped by CBP. He was hoping to earn a scholarship. "We're supposed to graduate from high school next year, and we wanted to do something to secure our education," he said.

The teen's plans were derailed when he was wrongfully detained. "Powerless. That's how I felt. How with all this proof that I was giving them could they hold me?" he said.

First published on July 25, 2019 / 12:41 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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