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This post originally appeared on Voices of NY.
Abraham Paulos now works as the executive director of the Families for Freedom, “an organizing center against deportation” based in Manhattan. But in October of 2010, he himself faced deportation, when he was arrested and charged in a robbery and detained at Riker’s Island.
As an immigrant born in Sudan to Eritrean parents, the 30-year-old Paulos came to the United States as a refugee when he was 3. In the audio slide show above, Paulos tells Dominion of New York that he was arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, then exonerated — and how the experience drove him to become an advocate for others in his situation.
“If you are a non-citizen and you have contact with criminal justice, you are highly at risk of being detained and deported,” he explains. “Being an immigrant without your papers is a civil violation, not a crime, and so we think that the merger of the criminal justice system and the immigration system is an unholy marriage.”