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Detained by ICE in York prison, he begs to be deported

Written by Brett Sholtis/York Daily Record | Apr 5, 2017 12:00 PM
ICE_york_county_immigrant.jpg

over Township resident Yolanda Compton shares the story of her nephew, Washington Klever Calle Delgado, 35, who was caught up in a sweep by ICE Philadelphia and is currently incarcerated in York County Prison. (Photo: Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record)

A 20-year Dover Township resident describes visiting her Ecuadorian-born nephew who is in prison for alleged immigration law violations.

(Undated) -- Through thick glass in York County Prison's visitation area, Yolanda Compton noticed how much weight her nephew had lost. Once healthy, he looked gaunt, and his cheeks were covered with rosacea, a condition she'd never known him to have.

"It's the stress," said Compton. "He feels like he's going crazy."

Her nephew, 35-year-old Washington Klever Calle Delgado, picked up the prison phone so that they could talk. Separated by the glass, Compton and Calle Delgado recounted holidays and vacations -- good times, before his March 3 arrest for overstaying the work visa that brought him to the U.S. in 2013.

She was desperate to brighten his mood. "It's the worst place," Compton said. "He's treated like a criminal there."

Some people might say that Calle Delgado is indeed a criminal, but a visa overstay is a civil charge, not a criminal offense, said Stephen Converse, a York attorney who often represents immigrants. Converse doesn't represent Calle Delgado.

"They are considered to be civil charges, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense since the consequences of these civil charges are so serious -- at least as serious as a lot of criminal charges," Converse said.

The term "civil" may bring to mind lawsuits and divorce proceedings, rather than a prison sentence, but one result of the civil categorization is that those held on immigration charges don't have a right to a public defender, Converse said.

It's just one part of a system that shrouds immigrants' arrests, detention and trials from public scrutiny.

Yolanda Compton, originally of Ecuador, talks about visiting her nephew, Washington Calle-Delgado, 35, in York County Prison. Calle-Delgado, also of Ecuador, was caught up in a sweep by ICE in Philadelphia for a visa overstay charge.

A search tool on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website does show that he is being held at York County Prison. That tool has become a lifeline for the families who struggle to stay in touch with their detained relatives, Converse said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement regional spokesman Adrian Smith confirmed that Calle Delgado is being detained at the prison "pending immigration proceedings." He's one of about 750 inmates there for immigration violations, according to February 2017 numbers provided by York County spokesman Mark Walters.

Immigrants do have a right to pay bond and get released from prison prior to a hearing, said Converse. However, he's seeing a lot of bonds set around $10,000 to $15,000, all of which would be required prior to an inmate being released before trial. "The amount of bond set by some of the immigration judges has been pretty extraordinary."

Calle Delgado was not immediately available for comment. Prisoners have limited access to phones, and Calle Delgado doesn't speak English.

Compton said that, although her nephew is guilty of overstaying his visa, a month in prison is a harsh punishment for someone with no criminal past.

She said he came to the U.S. in 2013 to work with his brother, a U.S. citizen who had started a carpet installation and removal business in Philadelphia.

He'd never had any problems with the law until the morning of March 3 around 6 a.m., when he stopped to get food on his way to work, she said. ICE agents were searching for someone else, but when Calle Delgado failed to provide proper identification, they arrested him.

Converse said he's seen a drastic uptick in arrests similar to this one. Under the Obama administration, ICE focused on people with criminal records. Now the agency detains anyone who lacks residency or citizenship documents.

That's led to an overflow in prisons and a backlog in cases, Converse said. He's seen detained immigrants sent across the state or out of state as they wait to be tried. Those who seek deportation can spend weeks or months in prison, while those who fight their charges might spend longer there.

Recently one of Converse's clients was transferred from York to Cambria County Prison. The Western Pa. prison has become a holding station for immigrants from as far away as West Virginia, who eventually come to York for deportation hearings.

"It really threw a wrench in the works," Converse said. "Fortunately (ICE) agreed to bring him back here, but it just shows how those transfers can make it hard for a client to meet with his lawyer."

The flood of arrests has created a situation where people end up in prison, without legal representation and separated from their families.

After a month in prison, Calle Delgado is begging to be deported, Compton said. He has citizenship in Spain and Ecuador and is eager to go to either country. "He sent a letter asking to voluntarily leave the country. He can't spend any more time in jail."

Reporter Joel Shannon contributed to this report. 

 

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

Published in News, York

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