US citizen Francisco Galicia, 18, gets a hug from his attorney, Claudia Galan, after his release from the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall, Texas. Picture: Kin Man Hui/The San Antonio Express-News via AP

Houston — A US-born 18-year-old was released from immigration custody Tuesday after wrongfully being detained for more than three weeks.

Francisco Erwin Galicia left a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Pearsall, Texas, on Tuesday. His lawyer, Claudia Galan, confirmed he had been released, less than a day after The Dallas Morning News' reporting about his case drew national attention.

ICE did not immediately comment. Nor did US Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, the agency that first detained Galicia.

Galicia lives in the border city of Edinburg, Texas, and was traveling north with a group of friends when they were stopped at a Border Patrol inland checkpoint. According to Galan and the Morning News, agents apprehended Galicia on suspicion that he was in the U.S. illegally even though he had a Texas state ID.

Galicia was detained for three weeks by the Border Patrol, then transferred to the ICE detention center.

Galan said she believes Galicia was "absolutely" a victim of racial profiling. The others in the vehicle with him were all Latinos, including his 17-year-old brother Marlon, who was born in Mexico and was in the U.S. illegally. Marlon told the Morning News that he agreed to be returned to Mexico.

Francisco Galicia, 18, has been released from immigration custody after wrongfully being detained for more than three weeks. Picture: Kin Man Hui/The San Antonio Express-News via AP

"I'm so thankful Francisco is free and he can sleep at home tonight and see his mom," she said.

The Border Patrol apprehends people entering the U.S. illegally, both directly at the U.S.-Mexico border and with its series of highway checkpoints miles from the border. In most cases, agents glance at drivers passing through the checkpoints and let them pass quickly. A passport or proof of citizenship is not normally demanded to pass through an inland checkpoint.

The South Texas Detention Center is seen in Pearsall, Texas. File picture: Eric Gay/AP


Galicia was detained by the Border Patrol for well above the 72 hours that CBP says it is supposed to hold detainees. But in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, where Galicia was arrested, the Border Patrol is holding hundreds of adult men and women accused of entering the country illegally for longer than 72 hours. In McAllen, Texas, adult men are being held in fenced-in pens. 

Francisco Galicia, 18, was travelling north with a group of friends when they were stopped at a Border Patrol inland checkpoint, and he was detained for three weeks by the Border Patrol, then transferred to the ICE detention centre. Picture: Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News

The Morning News reported that Galicia wasn't transferred out of Border Patrol custody to ICE until Saturday. That's when he was able to make collect calls to his mother. Galan drove Tuesday to the detention center in Pearsall to secure his release.

Immigration authorities are not supposed to detain U.S. citizens. But both ICE and CBP have apprehended citizens in the past.

AP