UPDATE: Emilio, the younger brother who was arrested by USCBP has been released. The 17 year old is back at home with his family.
A local family is searching for answers after their two teenage sons were arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents and held against their will for over a week. One of the brothers remains behind bars.
“I told them I didn’t do anything wrong, it was really bad. It felt like a nightmare being inside for eight days,” said Simon Rodriguez, who was in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s custody since last Wednesday.
May 2 was supposed to be a typical day for Simon and Emilio Rodriguez. The teen brothers who live in Pharr went to a nearby farm where their father worked to drop off some lunch.
That’s when things took an unexpected turn.
“I saw this truck coming. I thought it was just a worker, or someone else. But he came, he got down, he told us if we had any identification,” said Rodriguez.
When Simon and Emilio said they didn’t have their wallets on them, the undercover border patrol agents called for backup. Within minutes, more agents arrived and demanded the brothers get inside their van.
“His response was if I didn’t put my feet inside the truck, he was going to close it on my feet,” said the 19-year-old.
Though the brothers were born in Mexico, their parents are American Citizens, in turn, granting them legal access to the country. The family has lived in Pharr legally since 2004 according to their attorney, Alex Martinez.
“United States Border Protection and Customs allowed the children to come in at 4 and 5 years old. They came in through the bridge, through inspection, through CBP and CBP made the same conclusion that they were American Citizens,” said Martinez.
The teens told agents they were American Citizens, but say agents arrested them anyway and took them to an immigration center in McAllen. After being processed, they were separated.
Simon says he was taken to a detention center near San Antonio and Emilio to Brownsville.
“It was ugly, like a small cage, there was a lot of people, 50 people, inside, they were laying down on the floor, no space to lay down, sleep. They would be stepping on me, I even slept on the toilet, the restrooms,” said Rodriguez, “There was one restroom for 50, and there was no showers, I couldn’t shower.”
After eight days, Simon was released Thursday morning, but Emilio remains in custody at the Brownsville Department of Health and Human Services. The family has had no contact with Emilio and after hiring an attorney, his mom prays he’ll be released soon.
“It’s very hard, my biggest fear was that my only sons would be deported to Mexico. They don’t know anyone there, they haven’t been there since they were four,” said Maria Rodriguez, “I’m happy because I have one back, but I’m not complete, I won’t be happy for sure until I have my other son.”
The Rodriguez family says they don’t understand why this happened since they are all in this country legally and have lived in the Rio Grande Valley for over 14 years.
Their attorney say it’s a case of racial profiling.
“In violation of all sorts of government, constitutional, and human rights, they decided to just simply whisk them away just like that, as if they are Gods, and to say the least, it’s an overreach, to say the least it’s an abuse of discretion.”
CBS 4 Valley reached out to Border Patrol who released this statement.
Emilio is expected to be released late Thursday or Friday.