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Prolonged Detention of Undocumented Syracuse Man Raises Concerns About Immigration System

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Scott Willis
/
WAER-FM 88.3

Syracuse-area community advocates say the detention of an undocumented Syracuse man for seven months without a court hearing points to serious flaws in the federal immigration system. 

Justino Vixtha has lived and worked in the area for more than two decades.  He was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE in late May on a 20-year-old deportation order, and has been held in a western New York detention facility ever since.  His wife of 15 years Melissa Vixtha says it’s been emotionally and financially draining for her and their three daughters.  She says they might be able to bond him out at his court date on Monday.

We are hoping it is  $10,000. We are going to struggle but some how some way, I want him home.  We are going to do what we got to do to get him home. He belongs home. He don't belong there. He is not a criminal, he has done everything that he is supposed to be doing,”  said Vixtha.

Vixtha says they were in the process of seeking legal citizenship for her husband with the help of an attorney when he was arrested by ICE agents at Carol Watson's Greenhouse, where he worked for 22 years.  Volunteer organizer with the Syracuse Immigration and Refugee Defense Network Jessica Maxwell says the excessive bond is arbitrary, and isn’t based on a person’s flight risk or danger to the community.

We know he has got deep roots and connections in this community and we can't see any reason why he shouldn't be back with his family while his case proceeds throught the court because he has an open and active legal case with grounds for staying in this country. The court system should make that decision not ICE."  

Maxwell says ICE arrests have jumped by more than 35 percent in New York from 2017 to 2018, and deportations increased by 29 percent both at double or triple the national average.  At the same time, parole rates have plunged from 50 percent to 10 percent, and detention times have grown consistently longer.  The advocates say this violates long-standing immmigration policy as well as civil and human rights.

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER-FM 88.3
Left to right: Advocates Melinda Wells-Reynolds and Annagret Schubert; CNY NYCLU Chapter Director Yusuf Abdul-Qadir; advocate Paul Welch; Melissa Vixtha, and Jessica Maxwell.