Albany County seeing uptick in immigrants detained at jail

Sheriff Craig Apple says with a jail a half capacity, the county has room to open up cells to illegal immigrants being transferred from different institutions. On Wednesday, it saw 99 new ones from San Diego to add to the 40 already housed there, but they're not from where many may suspect.

"Most of the list is from China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cameroon..."

Sheriff Apple says these are the places his jail is seeing immigrants from - low-level offenders with charges for things like DWI's, petit larceny, and illegal entry.

"I'm assuming that these are folks that are coming from other institutions and they're trying to make room maybe for what's going on down south, I'm not sure that's just my assumption," Apple said.

He says this is the largest number of immigrants the jail has seen in quite some time - and he's told it could see up to 200 at one time. He says he's happy to house them.

"They're confined, we're not being soft on crime, we're taking them, but these are people, and they're people that many of them just wanted to better their lives and they got caught up in the system and now I have them," the sheriff said.

"This isn't a new phenomenon for us, it's just that the numbers are so much greater."

Partnering with the Sheriff's Department, Albany Law Professor Sarah Rogerson trains a legal team to provide services to these immigrants at the jail. She says they already have volunteers signed up to interview 24 detainees by the end of this week.

"We're in there, we're identifying needs, there are people who are wrongfully detained in this population, there are people who already have legal counsel and their attorneys don't know where they are," Rogerson said.

Rogerson and Apple say the detainees are provided with free phone calls, medical exams, and are housed in a separate part of the jail. There's no guarantee of how long the same immigrants will remain there.

"I can't change the immigration policies in this country, but we can deal with what we've got and I think take a horrible situation, an appalling situation, and do something positive with it," Apple said.

Sheriff Apple says there's a possibility the jail will bring in more undocumented immigrants from San Antonio, TX, but he specifies they won't be ones who have been separated from their families.

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