Our Executive Director, Christine Sadowski, moderated a panel discussion on immigration, hosted by Orange County Democratic Women:
By Andrew Beam
Posted Mar. 13, 2016 at 8:28 PM
Updated Mar 13, 2016 at 8:51 PM
CHESTER - Getting a college education wasn’t easy for Argelia Morales.
She was always uncertain whether she’d have the ability to pay for college.
Morales was brought into the United States at age 5 from Mexico by her mother.
Morales isn’t a citizen, which meant she couldn’t apply for financial aid. Her parents were in poverty, so they couldn’t help her, either.
“But I had a dream,” Morales told a crowd of about 20 through her tears at the Town of Chester Senior Center.
Morales said she worked three jobs and was eventually able to graduate from SUNY New Paltz with a master’s degree in finance.
She’s still able to live, work and be protected from deportation in the United States under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but she still has to apply for the program every two years. And the program doesn’t put her on a path to citizenship.
“I feel like my capacity, like other dreamers, was cut short because of immigration policies,” Morales said.
The United States’ immigration system has been a political hot topic during the 2016 presidential election.
That’s why Orange County Democratic Women President Bette Ann Yarus said the organization hosted “The Death of the American Dream” forum at the Town of Chester Senior Center on Sunday.
She wanted residents to hear the many issues that undocumented immigrants face in this county.
Justin Mazzola, a human rights lawyer and researcher with Amnesty International, said the U.S. immigration system is “rigged towards deportation.”
He said the country will detain people without assessing whether they are flight risks or pose a danger; the person simply could have entered the country illegally.
“Ultimately, the U.S. has failed to meet international obligations with its enforcement and detention system,” Mazzola said.
Some of those detained are placed in local jails, including Orange County Jail, according to Pam O’Dea, who is a child sex and labor trafficking researcher for Safe Homes of Orange County.
O’Dea said one undocumented immigrant in Orange County was arrested after she tried to defend herself in a domestic abuse incident. Her husband, who was a citizen and held all of her documentation, called the police because she scratched his face.
“She was arrested and is now facing deportation,” O’Dea said. “That is what it looks like here in Orange County."
Orange County Legislator Christopher Eachus said he knows the country’s immigration system is in need of “grave repair.” If there is anything that can be improved on the local level, he said he wants to know.
“If there is nobody else, there is at least me,” Eachus said. “I’m willing to listen and address all issues.”