How the criminal justice system differs for asylum seekers

Four incidents in the month of August have led to four asylum seekers in Western New York being arrested.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In the month of August, Western New York has seen four incidents involving asylum seekers, and four incidents resulted in arrests. 

The first took place Aug. 2 at a still unknown hotel in Cheektowaga where a woman was allegedly raped in front of her 3-year-old child.

A week later at a Best Western in Cheektowaga, another woman was allegedly sexually assaulted.

Over the weekend, two more incidents took place — one at a Red Roof Inn in Amherst involving a fight with a roofing nail and another at the Luna Lounge in Cheektowaga after a group fought a security officer and threw rocks causing $12,000 in damages.

Rosanne Berardi is an immigration attorney with almost two decades of experience. She broke down how the legal process changes given that all four incidents involved migrants.

“They would go through the same criminal proceedings that you and I would as U.S. citizens,” she said. “What’s different is once they serve their criminal time, there’s an additional layer of immigration proceedings on top of that.”

An immigration proceeding is when an asylum seeker appears before a judge after serving their sentence to determine if they will be deported.

“Anything like a DWI or speeding or some of the lower-level violations are not going to disrupt someone’s ability to stay here, but anything seriously like rape or drug trafficking or federal gun possession or something of that level, that’s where you’re gonna see all of this,” Berardi said. 

She tells me the altercation at the Red Roof Inn over the weekend would be considered a low-level offense and likely won’t reach an immigration proceeding.

But the two rapes and incident resulting in damages to the Luna Lounge will and could lead to deportation.

However, due to backups in the system, reaching that point could take years.

“That’s what’s very controversial right now in the United States is that people are sitting around waiting for a really long time, and it seems a little bit out of the ordinary that we can’t move the system a bit quicker,” Berardi said. 

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