Despite pardon, Bronx man remains jailed in ICE prison

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ORANGE COUNTY, NY -

A Bronx man is fighting for his release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in an upstate prison despite having received a pardon from the governor.

Dejuan Callender remains incarcerated and a growing number of immigration advocates nationwide are raising awareness about his case.

"They can't believe I'm still here on a pardon," Callender says. "It's unheard of."

But Callender, 42, is also due to be deported, and he's been held for two years awaiting the final order. 

He was only 5 years old when his family brought him to New York from Barbados to escape extreme poverty. The family thrived until his dad abandoned them, he says. Then his mother died when he was 18. Then he fell in with the wrong crowd.

Callender racked up a criminal record for selling phony credit cards in 1999. A judge, showing leniency, gave him probation. But he was soon arrested again for stealing toothpaste and other household items from a CVS in Greenburgh, NY. He led police on a high-speed chase as he tried to escape.

While locked up for that crime, he says he got a surprise visit from his estranged father.

"We started to form a father-son relationship," Callender says. "He asked me to change my life. I promised I would. From that part on, I never committed another crime."

In fact, Dejuan became religious, became a father and found legitimate employment.

After rebuilding his life, he took a trip to his native Barbados. But upon his return, immigration officials took him into custody. A judge revoked his legal resident status, citing his past crimes. As time passed, the final deportation instructions never came, so he carefully continued to live his new life.

"I'm paying taxes, working on the books, but no one came to arrest me," he says, explaining that he felt he fell through the cracks.

But then in July 2015, as Callender prepared to take his son to a museum, an ICE agent arrested him.

He says he was sent to a series of prisons along the East Coast.

"They send you down there as a way to break you spiritually," Callender says. "There is no safety. You are in there with gang members."

Callender describes that time period as horrific. He says prisoners carried knives and extorted or raped fellow inmates, and guards used racial slurs.

"Officers stood by and did nothing," he says. "They don't treat you as a human being."

Gov.  Andrew Cuomo issued the pardon at the end of last year. It's been seven months, and Callender says he has no idea what the next step is in his case.

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