US citizen says he lost 26 pounds under 'inhumane' conditions at border facility in Texas

An 18-year-old U.S. citizen from Dallas who was held for more than three weeks by U.S. and Customs and Border Protection despite carrying U.S. birth certificate documents says he lost 26 pounds during his detention and was not allowed to shower or brush his teeth while in custody.

Francisco Erwin Galicia spoke to The Dallas Morning News and MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes" after his release this week. He was freed shortly after The Dallas Morning News first reported his ordeal.

“It was inhumane how they treated us," he told The Dallas Morning News. "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 MSNBC that some 60 men were crowded into a cell with only one toilet. They had to sleep on the floor – some even in the bathroom – under aluminum-foil blankets.

"There, we couldn't bathe or brush our teeth. Nothing. You didn't have anything. The only thing that they would give us from time to time, to clean ourselves were wipes,” he said.

CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials issued a joint statement after his release regarding their decision to detain Galicia.

"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 and his brother, Marlon Galicia, who was born in Mexico and is not a U.S. citizen, were picked up at at CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, about 50 miles north of McAllen, Texas, while en route with friends to a soccer scouting camp at Ranger College in North Texas near Dallas.

Marlon Galicia, who later agreed to be deported, did not have legal authority to be in the U.S., but Francisco Galicia said he showed his documents: a Texas ID, Social Security card and a wallet-sized birth certificate. He said the agents at the outset doubted their validity and would not allow him to contact family or a lawyer.

“I told them we had rights and asked to make a phone call. But they told us, ‘You don’t have rights to anything,’” Francisco Galicia told The Dallas Morning News.

His lawyer, Claudia Galan, told the newspaper Francisco Galicia was detained because of conflicting information on a visa that his mother, who lives in Edinburg,Texas, had used for him as a child. Francisco Galicia was born in Texas, but spent most of his life in Mexico.

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, said it is "impermissible" for border or immigration officials to detain a U.S.citizen who has a valid Texas driver's license.

“Our federal agencies need to implement consistent standards for verifying immigration status to prevent anything like this from happening again," he said.

After 23 days, Francisco Galicia was moved to an ICE detention center, where he was released. He was met at a McAllen, Texas, bus station by his mother, Sanjuana Galicia, 42.

“I was desperate and hand-tied because they wouldn’t give me answers about him and how he was doing, what had happened – nothing,” she told The Monitor newspaper in McAllen. “It was something horrible that I don’t wish on anyone. I just couldn’t sleep thinking about my son because he has the right to be here. He’s a citizen."

Francisco Galicia told MSNBC's Chris Hayes that the immigration officials had used "psychological pressure" to try to convince him to sign self-deportation orders. At one point, they warned he faced three felony charges and jail time if he didn't sign.

"The truth is, I feared they would not believe me, and that they would leave me there for a much longer time," he said.

He said he did not realize he was finally being released until he was taken to meet his lawyer at the detention center.

"No one said, 'sorry.' They just called me, said get your stuff, you are leaving," he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Border detention: US citizen says he lost 26 pounds in 3-week ordeal