DeJuan's Story: Immigration enforcement in NY
Despite a pardon from Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the end of 2016, DeJuan Callender remains locked up at Orange County Correction Facility – putting a face to the politically charged issue of immigration enforcement.
"People come up to me every day – want my story. They can't believe I'm still here on a pardon. It's unheard of," he told News 12. It's the first time he has sat down to tell his story.
Callender says he's been on final deportation orders longer than anyone in the state, two years and counting.
Now 42, he was only 5 years old when his family moved him to New York from Barbados to escape extreme poverty. They settled with their green cards in the Bronx.
He says he thrived as a youth until his father left and his mother suddenly died when he was 18 years old.
"For several years, I went into a deep depression," he says. "…I didn't have a conscience."
After hanging with the wrong crowd, Callender was arrested for selling fake credit cards in 1999. He received only three years of probation for that offense.
While on probation, he was arrested again after trying to steal toothpaste and other household items at a CVS in Greenburgh and leading police on a high speed chase.
DeJuan says a surprise visitor while he was incarcerated changed him.
"While I was in Brooklyn, my dad came to visit. We started to form a father-son relationship. He asked me to change my life, I promised I would," he says.
In the years that followed, Callender changed his life and got a job on the books as a doorman in White Plains. He even took a trip to his native Barbados, never expecting that when he returned, immigration officials would be waiting.
Soon after, a judge revoked his legal resident status over his crimes, but Callender says he never got final deportation instructions. That was in 2005.
"I'm thinking I fell through the cracks. I'm paying taxes, working on the books, but no one came to arrest me," he says.
But then in July 2015 an ICE agent blocked his car in the driveway and arrested him in front of his son.
A string of visits to prisons along the eastern seaboard soon followed, including tough stints in Mississippi and Louisiana. He told News 12 that the treatment of inmates in those facilities was harsh, to say the least.
Callender was transferred back to the Hudson Valley last year and received a pardon from Gov. Cuomo at the end of December. Still, seven months later, he remains in legal limbo, unsure of what the next steps will be in his case.
News 12's repeated calls to immigration officials regarding the case have gone unreturned. News 12 also put out several Freedom of Information requests regarding his complaints about the prisons in Mississippi and Louisiana.