The American teenager who was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and held for more than three weeks before being released Tuesday, says that conditions were so bad at the holding facility that he considered self-deporting himself from the country he was born in and a citizen of. Francisco Erwin Galicia, a Dallas-born U.S. citizen, spoke to the Dallas Morning News about the 23 days he spent in a South Texas detention center—and the picture he painted was not pretty. “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.”
Galicia, who was not allowed to make a phone call for weeks, said he was not able to shower for the entirety of his detention and lost 26 pounds while in government custody because he simply wasn’t given enough food. The 18-year-old said he slept on the floor of an overcrowded holding area with 60 men, some of whom were forced to sleep on the bathroom floor. Many of the detainees were sick, he said, but were afraid to ask to see a doctor because they were told they would lose their place in line for processing if they did. “It’s one thing to see these conditions on TV and in the news,” Galicia. “It’s another to go through them.”
Galicia was stopped by immigration agents and arrested on June 27 en route to a college soccer scouting event in north Texas with his 17-year-old younger brother and three friends. Both the Galicia brothers are high school students and were attending the camp to try to earn a college scholarship to play soccer. The Galicia family lives in Edinburg, Texas, a border town roughly 10 miles from the Mexican border. Galicia’s brother, who is undocumented, was detained for two days before choosing to self-deport and was sent to Mexico to stay with relatives. During the stop, Galicia showed the agents his Texas state ID, his social security card, as well as a wallet-sized birth certificate. Because Galicia’s brother and another in the car did not have legal status, the agents believed the documents were fake and detained Galicia anyway.
Further complicating his release was that his mother, who is also undocumented, had previously listed his birthplace as Mexico when applying for a U.S. tourist visa when Galicia was a minor because she believed it was the only way he would be able to travel back and forth across the border to visit. When a lawyer for the Galicia family provided further corroborating documents and evidence to immigration authorities they still refused to release Galicia until earlier this week.