Starting on Wednesday, illegal immigrants who commit low level crimes could be housed in Albany County Jail.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says keeping them together here is just one way the county is trying to treat these people humanely.
“I could be like some of the politicians and stick my head in the sand and go to the country club. But we’re not. We’re actually backing up our words with actions,” Sheriff Apple said.
Like other facilities, the Albany County Jail has the space to house immigrants. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) starts sending them to Albany on Wednesday, Sheriff Apple says he’s confident they will be treated fairly.
“We’ve added phone lines for them to have free phones so they can reach out to loved ones and say Hey, I’m in Albany New York, wherever the heck that is. So I think we’re actually doing something good here. We’re taking a bad situation and doing something positive with it,” Sheriff Apple said.
Another service Albany County is providing is free legal aid through the Law Clinic and Justice Center at Albany Law School,
“This might be the only place where they have access to an attorney at the earliest point possible,” Sarah Rogerson, Director of Immigration Law Clinic at Albany Law, said.
Sheriff Apple doesn’t know exactly which countries these immigrants originate from, he doesn’t expect to receive anyone who was separated from their family at the border.
Lawyers at Albany Law say these are the very people who could fall through cracks.
“The people who are detained for being stopped for a turn signal violation and all of a sudden end up in detention, those people are being separated from their families too,” Rogerson said. “Without the intervention of a lawyer, there isn’t really a way for them to get their case heard given the backlogs in the immigration system.”
Sheriff Apple says this is not political and he must enforce federal law. He says he believes these immigrants will find the support they need in Albany.
“I can’t change the policy but I can help these people. That’s what we’re going to be doing and we have a proven track record of doing it,” Sheriff Apple said.