An 18-year-old born in Texas was released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention on Tuesday after being wrongfully held for more than three weeks, his attorney said.
Francisco Erwin Galicia, a high school senior in Edinburg, Texas, had been held in custody, first by Customs and Border Protection and then by ICE, since late June, his attorney told The Associated Press.
In a joint statement released on Wednesday, ICE and CBP confirmed Galicia was released, but said an investigation remains ongoing.
“Generally, situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify,” the statement read. “While we continue to research the facts of the situation, this individual has been released from ICE custody. 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.”
Galicia was traveling across Texas for a college soccer tryout with his younger brother and friends on June 27 when he was taken into custody at a border patrol checkpoint, his attorney, Claudia Galan, told The Dallas Morning News.
Galan said Galicia had proper identification with him, including a wallet-sized Texas birth certificate, a Texas identification card and a Social Security card. Customs and Border Protection agents grew suspicious when they discovered that Galicia’s 17-year-old brother, who was born in Mexico, didn’t have any legal status to be in the U.S.
During a deeper probe, CBP discovered that Galicia had a U.S. tourist visa that his mother, who is undocumented, took out for him when he was a child, Galan told The Washington Post.
Galan said Galicia was born in a Dallas hospital. However, Galan said, Galicia’s mother used a different name on his birth certificate and said he was born in Mexico because of her immigration status. This name change meant she wasn’t able to request a U.S. passport for him. She applied for a tourist visa with inaccurate information so Galicia could travel between Mexico and the U.S. to visit family.
“He’s been here all his life,” Galan told the Post, but “when Border Patrol checked his documents, they just didn’t believe they were real. They kept telling him they were fake.”
Galicia’s brother, Marlon Galicia, was taken into custody and deported to Mexico two days later. He told the Morning News he is living with his grandmother there.
“I didn’t imagine this could happen, and now I’m so sad that I’m not with my family,” he told the publication in a phone interview from Reynosa, just south of McAllen, Texas.
Francisco Galicia was detained at the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall. Speaking with the Morning News following his release, Galicia described the harrowing conditions he endured there. He said he lost 26 pounds during his detention because officers didn’t provide sufficient food. Galicia also said he wasn’t allowed to shower and that he slept on the floor alongside 60 other men in an overcrowded holding area. Some of the men, he said, slept on the floor in the restroom because of a lack of space.
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.
News of Galicia’s detention caught the attention of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who tweeted about the teen’s situation on Monday.
This story has been updated with more details about Galicia’s detention, as well as news of his release and a joint statement from CBP and ICE.
Dominique Mosbergen contributed reporting.