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NEWS9 Special Assignment: Illegal immigration, is it happening here?

President Donald Trump has vowed a grand effort to stop the extreme measures of illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration is one of the biggest issue of our time.

But is it happening here?

It's a basic question, but the answer isn't quite so simple.

To look into this, NEWS9’s Jessica Haberley contacted local officials -- sheriffs, police chiefs, and prosecutors -- and not many cases came to mind.

So to find out if illegal immigration is happening here, she took the question straight to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

President Donald Trump has vowed a grand effort to stop the extreme measures of illegal immigration. Some people have resorted to stuffing themselves into the dash boards of vehicles, or contorting themselves into what they call the human chair in order to get into the United States.

But are they coming to the Ohio Valley?

Steubenville City Manager James Mavromatis worked law enforcement on the southwest border, so he's well-versed in the topic.

“It's happening here and all over our country,” he said. “It doesn't matter which city you go to, there's a good chance you have some illegal aliens.”

We know some of their names, saw some of their faces, and heard part of their stories.

Last month, two immigrants who admitted they did not have proper documentation were arrested in separate criminal incidents.

Immigration detainers were placed on Guillermo Hernandez, who held a machete over the woman he assaulted in a S. 5th street home in Steubenville, and Giovanni Fernandez-Ramirez, whose assault case stemmed from an incident on Lawson Avenue.

Both were prosecuted in town, and then sent to Columbus for immigration hearings.

But there's really no way of knowing how many more undocumented immigrants are calling the Ohio Valley home.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement keeps track of deportations by region.

Ohio's stats are tallied with Michigan's. In fiscal year 2016, there were 2,056 removals, or deportations, from the two states. More than half were convicted criminals.

The numbers were similar for the 2 years before that, but the stats from 2013 show 4,473 removals, and nearly three-fourths of those, were convicted criminals.

West Virginia's numbers are totaled with Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Last fiscal year, there were 3,291 deportations and 2,588 were criminal.

Within the past 5 years, the biggest round-up in West Virginia's region was also fiscal year 2013 with 5,841 deportations (3,830 were convicted criminals).

When asked to interpret the stats, ICE simply said, "The regional statistics clearly show a continued emphasis on enforcement against convicted criminals."

Of course, not all undocumented immigrants are committing acts of violence. And there are plenty of people who enter the country legally, like one Ohio Valley woman who has been through the process.

She describes it as stressful and nerve-wracking.

“It’s completely up to the discretion of that officer,” she said. “So, it doesn't matter if you're being truthful or not, it's just very stressful having your future weight on someone's opinions."

She originally denied a request for an interview to ensure nothing would jeopardize her efforts to obtain a green card.

She said she’s no longer afraid of being deported.

“I was during the process, but I think it's that level of uncertainty, you don't really know what exactly is going to happen, but no, not now,” she said.

This woman even missed her grandfather's funeral because she was not allowed to leave the U.S. during the process.

She warns anyone seeking permanent residency to be prepared.

“Well it’s long and most of it isn't doing much, it's just the waiting period,” she said. “If you forget even a single document, you have to wait another 3 months for them to look at it again.”

Illegal immigration is happening here, and everywhere.

But Mavromatis says the Ohio Valley doesn't have the kind of industry that tends to attract undocumented workers, such as agriculture, or large-scale construction projects.

“If we could clearly show that we had an abundance of illegal aliens I would immediately call ICE to come in and do a roundup to verify, are these people legally here? But again, I can't say that we have an overabundance.”

Last year, more than a million people entered the U.S. every single day. And each day, 22 wanted criminals were arrested at ports of entry.

We just don't know how many others -- both peaceful, and violent -- went uncounted.

“Majority of the people coming into the country just want a better way of life, and it makes you feel bad, but we have a legal way to do it, and that's what they need to do,” Mavromatis said.

If you're living in the Ohio Valley illegally and you want to get the proper documentation, Mavromatis encourages you to get an immigration attorney.

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