Between Borders: Shocking state of immigration detainees in NY

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“Between Borders,” a Turn To Tara investigation, reveals the shocking state of immigration detainees in New York state.

News 12 has uncovered data that shows a dramatic increase in the number of immigrants being detained and deported. It also shows that the detainees are being held in custody much longer than anywhere else in the country.

There are 775,000 undocumented immigrants in New York, and nearly 15 percent of them call the Hudson Valley home.

For most people in the U.S., something as simple as jaywalking risks a fine, but for the roughly 100,000 undocumented immigrants in the Hudson Valley, walking against a light instills fear that they may get a traffic ticket and then be deported.

So-called Dreamers, like 14-year-old Melanie from Mount Kisco, says sometimes she heads off to school wondering if it will be for the last time.

"My mom and I are really scared because my two brothers were born here, so they could deport me and my mom and dad and they would be stuck here alone," she says.

It is estimated that there are 42,000 Dreamers living in New York state, most of them born to parents who aren't documented.

Nearly all of them are worried their families could be ripped apart under the Trump administration’s policies.

In an attempt to find out if deportations are really skyrocketing locally, News 12 filed an extensive Freedom of Information request with federal immigration officials seven months ago.

It revealed that 869 New York immigrants were in custody facing deportation in 2017, including 230 ICE detainees already served with final removal orders - a 46 percent increase from the year before and well above the national average.

"There is no way to come up with any other conclusion that the government just wants to deport as many immigrants as humanely possible. A lot of these immigrants who have a final order of removal do not have criminal records," says immigration attorney Paul Grotas.

Grotas says what he finds really troubling is News 12 data that shows the average time of detention is 159 days - almost five times the national average.

A big problem, he says, is the critical shortage of immigration judges in the area.

"For inmates who are in jail, it might take upwards of a month, 45, 60 days to see a judge because there are no new judges being appointed. The number of judges being appointed right now cannot match the need of immigrants who need to be seen," he says.

News 12 also presented the findings to Rep. Nita Lowey, who said she was stunned by the data uncovered.

"This is inhumane. It's wrong. You shouldn't have someone lingering in prison 150-plus days. This is really crazy," she says.

Lowey says she will now demand a full analysis of the system.

Republican state Sen. Terrence Murphy thinks a better solution is to fast-track and streamline.

"Why should someone spend $50,000 or $40,000 to become a U.S. citizen and take 10 years? That process should be changed," he says.

It also costs taxpayers an average $73 per day per detainee.  That means it costs residents about $9,000 more per deportation.

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