Between Borders: Conditions at immigration jails

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Documents obtained by a News 12 investigation paint a startling picture of conditions at immigration jails across the country.

One detainee from Westchester says he attempted to blow the whistle on his alleged abuse but paid the painful price of deportation.

Turn To Tara previously interviewed ICE detainee DeJuan Callender at Orange County Jail. Callender was pardoned for two non-violent crimes, including stealing toothpaste, a decade ago.

The Barbados native remained locked up and initially spoke out to fight for his release.

His wife, Dina Briggs, claims ICE agents and a jail nurse denied Callender proper medical care for a kidney condition and an enlarged heart after he went public.

A civil rights complaint was filed. After seven weeks, Briggs was back in the News 12 studio to say that ICE deported Callender back to Barbados. Briggs is convinced that the timing of his removal was no coincidence.

More: 'Between Borders' Part One

More: Letter to Homeland Security

More: DeJuan Callender complaint

"I mean he's been detained 2 1/2 years. Why all of the sudden, when we file a civil rights case, is he gone?" she asks. "It's not just us. We see it every day, the level of cruelty is beyond comprehension."

News 12 discovered the accusations were being made by a startling number of ICE detainees across the country, especially in Alabama.

A complaint obtained by News 12 and filed by 20 detainees against the Etowah County Detention Center back in 2015 cites “mental torture,” “barely edible food” and an ongoing practice of violent prison guard assault.

Callender claims the same conditions existed only a year ago when he was sent to Orange County Jail.

The concerns were also apparently shared by the Office of the Inspector General. A Freedom of Information request seems to shed some light on the inspector general’s report released last month that suggests abuse and human rights violations at five of the nation's largest detention facilities, including one in New Jersey.

The accusations are well-known to Manhattan immigration attorney Paul Grotas.       

"I think numerous detainees die each year from the medical treatment they don't receive," he says.    

Callender and his wife say they will continue to fight.

News 12 made several requests to the government for a response.  What was received was a list of dates and charges filed against Callender with no mention of allegations of abuse made by him or any immigration detainee in the U.S.

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