Albany County Jail windfall benefits detainees

November 14, 2018 07:09 PM

ALBANY - The foreign-born detainees began arriving at the Albany County Jail the last week in June. By early July, the migrant population there had exploded to more than 330. Now there are roughly 180 of them left.

"These are not criminals," Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple pointed out. "These are not bad people. These are people that are running from gangs, running from sexual assaults, running from sex trafficking, slave labor, human trafficking and they got swept up in doing so."

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Apple says it's heartwarming for him to see some of the $4 million windfall, $170,000 to be precise, set aside to expand legal services for the men and women, many of whom have been sitting in his jail for more than four months.

"It's very rare that you walk down a jail tier and they smile and wave to you," Apple stated. "But they also know that we've been helping them."

Professor Sarah Rogerson is Director of the Immigration Law Center at Albany Law School. Many of the detainees currently sitting in the Albany County Jail are her clients. She understands their anguish and despair.

"I interviewed a gentleman who literally had his son ripped out of his arms while his son was clinging to his body by immigration," she said. "When immigration textbooks are written years from now, they'll look back on this time as a very restrictive period of immigration."

"Regardless of what anybody's opinion is on immigration, it's still 2018," Apple asserted. "We're in the greatest country in the world and I think we can treat people better."

Meanwhile, Rogerson says more than 80-percent of the Albany detainees have passed their "Credible Fear" hearings and are on their way to citizenship.

For those who didn't clear that hurdle, she says some are appealing, others will be deported.

However, Rogerson says she's also "terrified" because immigration judges who will ultimately determine citizenship are not part of the Justice Department, they are part of the executive branch, the part of the Trump Administration that sets immigration police.

At a time when no new immigration judges are being hired, the backlog is estimated at one million cases.


Dan Levy

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