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U.S. citizen says he lost 26 pounds while wrongfully held in 'inhumane' conditions

"We couldn’t breathe or brush our teeth," Francisco Erwin Galicia said of his time at a Texas detention center.
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An 18-year-old U.S. citizen who was held as an undocumented immigrant for more than three weeks in conditions he called "inhumane" says U.S. officials never apologized for wrongfully detaining him.

"We went through something inhumane," Francisco Erwin Galicia said through a translator.

Galicia, who was born in Dallas but spent much of his life in Mexico, shared his experience in a Texas detention facility with MSNBC's Chris Hayes during a segment that aired Friday on "All In."

Detainees at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in South Texas were allowed to shower only every three to seven days, he said, and in between, they were given "wipes" to try to clean themselves.

"All of us at that [CBP] detention center, we couldn’t breathe or brush our teeth," the teenager said. "We were about 60 people in one small room."

The center was so crowded, he said, that the men took turns sleeping in the one bathroom they were allowed to use.

"We would call it the freezer because, well, it was really cold," he said. " ... With one single bathroom for all those people — without beds or anything. And we would sleep on the floor."

Galicia was detained at a Texas checkpoint in late June while traveling with a brother he says was undocumented. Galicia said he announced his citizenship and showed agents his Texas identification, a birth certificate and a Social Security card, but agents believed they were fake and held him.

CBP and ICE said in a statement Wednesday that Galicia gave immigration enforcement officers "conflicting reports regarding status of citizenship."

Image: Francisco Erwin Galicia, Claudia Galan
U.S. citizen Francisco Galicia, 18, gets a hug from his attorney, Claudia Galan, after his release from the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall, Texas, Tuesday, July 23, 2019.Kin Man Hui / The San Antonio Express-News via AP

The Dallas Morning News first reported Galicia's detention, and after 23 days, he was released. The teen said he lost 26 pounds while in custody.

Agents, Galicia said, threatened him with the possibility of felony charges of providing false documents and pressured him to sign paperwork agreeing to deportation.

"It was more psychological," he said. "They said they were going to charge me. They would insult me so I would sign my deportation order."

Galicia said his brother agreed to be deported.

CBP and ICE stated that they "are committed to the fair treatment of migrants in our custody."

Galicia expressed concern for those who remain in custody, including men who had been detained for more than a month.

"Don’t be so inhumane," he said. "Here under God's eyes, we are all people. We all deserve the same respect and the same treatment regardless of your nationality."