Sheriff Tells Wall Street Journal He Relies on Prof. Rogerson to Help with Detained Immigrants

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Prof. Rogerson training volunteer attorneys. Photo by Lucas Willard, WAMC
Prof. Rogerson training volunteer attorneys. Photo by Lucas Willard, WAMC

When Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple was asked by federal immigration officials if he could house hundreds of detained asylum-seekers, he told the Wall Street Journal that he would need the legal support of Albany Law School Professor Sarah Rogerson, who runs the Immigration Law Clinic.

Apple was referring to the agreement he has had with Rogerson for several years, in which he allows Rogerson and her students into the jail to provide counsel to the detainees.

"This has been going on for many years," Prof. Rogerson said. "But now the volume has increased significantly, beyond what the system can handle." 

Rogerson, working with community partners like the Legal Project, has recruited dozens of attorney volunteers to provide legal counsel to the hundreds of detainees. Along with recruiting and organizing the volunteers—who also include interpreters—they are also providing immigration law training.

"These are detainees who have no idea where they are, have been told little to nothing about their situation, and have no idea where their family members are," Rogerson said. "Essentially, we're trying to get them their due process. Fortunately, Sheriff Apple is doing his best to treat them with respect and give them decent accommodations. That is not necessarily happening in the other facilities around the country."

Albany Law Professor Mary Lynch, who is working with Rogerson, said that there is little information about the current policy and process foisted on a local system from the federal government. "We're trying to find out who they are and where they came from, for starters." Sheriff Apple told the Times Union  that  "We were expecting maybe 150 to 200. I ended up taking the 300 because when you saw these individuals get off the plane your heart just about breaks."

While they were told the detainees had not been separated from their families, Rogerson and others found out otherwise, noting that some had been separated from their children, spouses, and siblings, and at least one had been moved several times.

"Did you want to see them in a penned area, a tent city, a private prison?" Apple said on a WAMC radio program. "No. I took them because I know I have a partnership with Albany Law. I know that I have a coalition out there that can give these folks the help that they need."

Rogerson's activity and knowledge of the current immigration situation has led to a weekly public radio broadcast that airs in New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut.