The employers of an Orange County resident say he has been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They’ve been collecting letters on the immigrant’s behalf. And they are calling on elected officials to allow undocumented immigrants who are hard-working and law-abiding to remain in the country.
The Saft family says Middletown resident Toribio Cervantes was working for the family business in Pine Bush – Saft Electric — since 2004, until he was detained by ICE July 31. John Saft issued a press release, noting that Cervantes came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1990, and was detained as part of an ICE raid of a factory in Orange County in 1993. John Saft says Cervantes was required to sign a voluntary departure document which allowed him to work in the U.S. for another year but required that he return to Mexico at the end of that year. Saft contends that Cervantes could not read in English and did not understand what he had signed and stayed past that date. WAMC contacted ICE spokespeople for confirmation and additional details, but ICE, in an email, says it could take up to one day for a response. Democratic state Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther’s district includes Middletown.
“Honestly, first and foremost, I’d like to have more information, but I do feel that this gentleman should have fair legal services,” says Gunther. “He needs, obviously he signed something in the past and, at this point, at this point, he needs appropriate language translation.”
Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney’s 18th District also includes Middletown. Maloney is also running for state attorney general. On Tuesday, he released a TV ad telling the story of a Newburgh resident who was deported last year after spending 30 years with his wife in the U.S. illegally. His daughter Maria speaks in the ad about her father Martin Martinez.
(Part of ad) “My dad entered the country illegally trying to seek better opportunities,” says Maria Martinez.
“One day they told him, we’re throwing you out of the country,” Maloney says.
“The first person that I called was Congressman Maloney,” says Maria Martinez. “Sean was the reason why my dad was able to spend his final days in the U.S. with my family,” Maria Martinez says.
“So he goes back to Mexico and he dies of a heart attack,” Maloney says.
“I think being deported broke my dad’s heart, and it killed him,” Martinez says.
Maria Martinez once worked as an intern in Maloney’s district office in Newburgh and now works for the state attorney general’s office. A spokesman for Maloney’s congressional office says they have reached out to Toribio Cervantes’ family and coworkers to figure out exactly what happened in this case. He adds that “Mr. Cervantes’ story shows the human cost of this administration’s immigration policies – we’re not talking about numbers in a spreadsheet or theoretical policy priorities – these are real people’s lives at stake.”
Gunther says the country is a melting pot, a lesson learned in history class.
“There’s been blips but, most of the times, we welcomed immigrants to our shore and [they] have been a valuable part of the American citizenship, and I think we should be aware of it,” Gunther says. “I think that the road to citizenship right now is very, very expensive. I talked to somebody that works in my community that just went through the process, and, because of language barriers and all kinds of issues like that, it was over $10,000. And if you’re making minimum wage or a little above that, it’s very, very difficult.”
In the meantime, Gunther says she awaits more information and will be in touch with local elected officials, like Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano, who did not respond in time for this broadcast.
Saft says that in 2016, Cervantes went to an immigration lawyer who suggested he apply for residency through his son, who was born in the U.S. in 1995. Saft says the application was not approved and lacked certain information. After Cervantes was detained, Saft says his family collected 30 notarized letters from friends, family, and co-workers asking for the release of Cervantes. The Saft family says the story of Cervantes has become a familiar one in surrounding communities.