Edinburg, Texas (CNN) — The Texas-born high school student who was detained by immigration officials for more than three weeks told CNN Thursday he was treated less than human at a US Customs and Border Protection facility.
Francisco Galicia, 18, says he was held in filthy, overcrowded conditions where he was not allowed to shower for 23 days, forced to sleep on a cement floor and not given enough food. By the time he was released Tuesday, after word spread about his detention following a report by The Dallas Morning News, he said he was malnourished, having dropped 26 pounds.
“They were not treating us humanely,” Galicia told CNN during a wide-ranging interview. “…The stress was so high, they (detention center agents) were on me all the time. It was like psychological torture to the point where I almost (agreed to be deported). I felt safer to be in the cell than to be with the officers.”
The problem began, he says, on June 27 while he was on his way to a college soccer scouting event.
He was traveling with his brother Marlon, 17, as well as a group of friends, from his hometown of Edinburg to Houston when they were stopped at a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias, about 100 miles north of the US-Mexico border.
Francisco Galicia was born in Texas, and he is an American citizen. As a child, he moved to Mexico with his family and later returned to the US as a teenager. He says he was carrying his state ID, a Social Security card and a wallet-sized birth certificate.
He also had a Mexican tourist visa with him that inaccurately listed his country of birth as Mexico, setting up a conflicting nationality claim, his attorney, Claudia Galan, said.
Both brothers were detained, and Marlon Galicia, who does not have legal status in the US, was retuned to Mexico. Francisco Galicia was sent to an immigration detention center.
“They didn’t believe me. I kept telling them over and over, and they kept saying my documents were fake, and they were going to deport me,” Galicia said. “…They threatened me with charges — charges about falsifying documents. Felonies. They kept asking how it was possible for me to not know where I was from. I almost signed (to be deported) because I didn’t want to suffer there anymore. “
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials declined a CNN request for comment on Galicia’s allegations and pointed back to a joint ICE-CBP statement on Wednesday following the teen’s release.
“This individual provided conflicting reports regarding status of citizenship after being apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol and transferred into Immigration and Customs Enforcement Custody,” the statement said.
The statement continued, “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, the individual has been released from ICE custody.”
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