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Hundreds of immigrants wrongly arrested in Rochester area

Some unsettling news has been reported about the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rochester area. A New York University study shows that agents received bonuses in the form of cash and even gift cards for arresting immigrants believed to be in the country without legal permission. The incentive program, which the Border Patrol denies exists, has resulted in the arrest of hundreds of immigrants who did in fact have refugee status, visas or political asylum.

According to the study, from 2006 to 2010, almost 300 immigrants with proper immigration documents were wrongly arrested by agents and later let go. Most of these arrests have occurred at train and bus stations in Rochester.

NYU conducted the study along with the immigrant rights organization, Families for Freedom. According to them, the Border Patrol incentive program "ramped up from a few thousand dollars in 2003 to nearly $200,000 in 2011."

The researchers discovered this information using the Freedom of Information Act. And though the Border Patrol denies keeping records of when a person with legal status is arrested, the study found that such records do in fact exist.

Some of the immigrants who were wrongly arrested were college students, and while in custody, they had to wait for their colleges to fax documents confirming their immigration status.

The detention of foreign students at train and bus stations was a recurring problem until a year and a half ago, said the director at a college in the area. Immigrant students are now told during college orientation to carry their immigration papers with them whenever they travel. There is no law, however, requiring any such action.

New York immigrants who have faced this kind of distressing treatment would do well to apprise themselves of their legal rights.

Source: USA Today, "Report: Border Patrol wrongly arrested hundreds in N.Y.," Gary Craig, Feb. 14, 2013

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