Feds transfer over 230 undocumented immigrants to NYC-area jails

There are signs that immigration officials are struggling to find space for the growing number of ICE detainees

Stephen Rex Brown
New York Daily News

NEW YORK CITY — More than 230 undocumented immigrants detained near the Mexico border were transferred this month to jails near New York City as the federal government struggles to house a growing number of asylum-seeking migrants.

An immigration official said the transfer of 235 immigrant detainees to ICE jails in Bergen, Hudson and Orange Counties appeared to be the first time the New York City area had received such a large number of border crossers.

“ICE is committed to the health and safety of all those in its custody. In response to a surge in border arrivals that began late last year, ICE began using the New York area Correctional Facilities in May 2019 to temporarily hold persons encountered at the Southern Border who are awaiting adjudication of their cases before the federal immigration courts," an ICE spokeswoman said.

Undocumented immigrants released at the border routinely make their first check-ins with ICE in New York. Immigrants detained at the border, however, have typically not been transferred to the other side of the country in such large numbers. The roughly 300 undocumented children separated from their families and held at facilities in the New York area last year were under the care of a different federal agency, the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Federal statistics show apprehensions at the southwest border are at historic levels. The feds apprehended 98,977 people at the border in April. More than 68% of those people were children and people traveling as families.

That was the highest one-month figure since April 2007, when more than 104,000 people were apprehended.

In April of 2018, 38,243 people were apprehended at the border.

ICE declined to share further information about the immigrants recently transferred to the New York area, who are in the custody of ICE’s office of Enforcement and Removal Operations. Bergen County Correctional Facility in Hackensack, N.J., is holding 70 female and 50 male recent border crossers, according to the Legal Aid Society.

Two immigration attorneys told the Daily News it was likely many of the immigrants were from Central America and seeking asylum because they could not return home due to fear of violence.

“There’s a tremendous increase in individuals seeking asylum from these countries in the last few years,” said Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney in Buffalo. “Unfortunately, the asylum officers have become overwhelmed.”

Being granted asylum, which was already extraordinarily challenging, has become “almost impossible” since President Trump took office, Kolken added.

The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, which provides free legal representation to immigrants facing deportation, said it would try to contact the new arrivals to the New York-area jails.

“The Trump Administration has again brought the border crisis to the New York City area. As a sanctuary city, New York has an obligation to ensure that these individuals have access to robust counsel, and NYIFUP stands ready to provide that representation. We will work with our partners at City Hall during this influx to ensure that no one detained at any local ICE jail is deprived of their right to representation and due process," the group said in a statement.

Trump last month claimed that immigrants detained at the border were being sent to sanctuary cities, like New York, that offer protections from deportation.

“Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived at our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources like nobody’s ever seen before. Now we’re sending many of them to sanctuary cities, thank you very much. They’re not too happy about it. I’m proud to tell you that was actually my sick idea, by the way," Trump said at a rally in Green Bay, Wis.

But it appeared that statement was false and that Trump’s proposal was not actually implemented. The Washington Post reported that the plan was rejected by ICE as inappropriate.

ICE gave no indication the detained migrants transferred from the border to New York-area jails would be released. Everyone arrested by ICE is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, an ICE official said.

But there are signs that immigration officials are struggling to find space for the growing number of ICE detainees. NBC News reported this month that the U.S. military plans to build six tent cities at sites near the border for 7,500 migrants.

Kolken said undocumented immigrants have faced “an erosion of an individuals’ right to be released from custody” since the Clinton administration.

In over 20 years of representing immigrants he’d never seen anything like the current state of affairs, where asylum seekers are lined up in droves at ports of entry.

“This is not normal. There are not enough resources,” he said. “It’s a bottleneck.”


©2019 New York Daily News

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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