A US teenager who was incorrectly held by ICE claims to have dropped 26 pounds in 23 days while detained by immigration officials.
Texas-born high school student Francisco Galicia, 18, says he was treated ‘inhumanely’ at a US Customs and Border Protection facility, where he was kept in dirty, cramped conditions with approximately 70 other people.
Francisco has said he was unable to shower for 23 days and forced to sleep on a concrete floor. He also suffered severe weight loss after becoming malnourished.
Francisco was born in Texas. An American citizen, he moved to Mexico with his family as a child, later returning to the US as a teenager.
According to CNN, Francisco’s difficulties began on June 27 when he was travelling to a college soccer scouting event in Houston from his hometown of Edinburg. He was accompanied by his brother, Marlon, 17, and some friends.
The group were stopped at a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias, approximately 100 miles north of the US-Mexico border, where both Francisco and Marlon were detained. Marlon, who was born in Mexico, was deported while Francisco was taken to an immigration detention centre.
At the time of his detainment, Francisco had been carrying his state ID, Social Security card and a birth certificate. He had also been carrying a Mexican tourist visa which inaccurately listed his country of birth as Mexico, resulting in a conflicting nationality claim.
Francisco told CNN officials refused to listen to his story:
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.
[…] 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.
Speaking about the conditions of the detention centre with CNN, Francisco said:
They were not treating us humanely.
[…]The stress was so high, they (detention centre 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.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have made the following statement, as reported by CNN:
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,
[…] 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.
Following his release, Francisco wants his experience to raise awareness of the squalid conditions in US detention centres.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.