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Know Your Rights
Source: Voices of NY
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Getting out the Latino Vote on Long Island

With three months to go until the November 4 elections for state and federal political representatives, Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York (MRNY), urged Long Island’s large Latino community to register to vote.

Valdés told La Tribuna Hispana that promoting the greatest participation possible from the Latino vote is of the utmost importance; for MRNY this is an ongoing campaign.

“We have a group of more than 50 young volunteers who periodically go out into the streets to talk with members of the Latino community, to speak with them about the importance of participating in the elections,” Valdés explained.

He said the information the youth provide includes the first step of becoming a registered voter, and secondly, raising awareness of the incredible power that can come with participating in the voting process.

Voting “is one of the most powerful tools our community can have,” said Valdés, and that the Latino population’s current growth must go hand in hand with Latinos’ presence as voters in the political sphere. This will be highly beneficial because it means “they [political representatives] will take us into account as a people.”

MRNY is mainly carrying out this campaign in towns with a heavy Latino presence in Nassau and Suffolk counties: Brentwood, Central Islip, North Bay Shore and Patchogue.

Political endorsement

“We’re very grateful to [the] Long Island [community], which has received us with open arms. It’s been very important to us to come to Long Island, where [MRNY has been operating] for three-and-a-half years. We’ve seen that the Latino community has been here a long time. In principle, we focus on providing information, about the community’s rights; and I must say, [our efforts have] been very welcome, especially in the area of Brentwood and Central Islip,” said Valdés.

MRNY was originally founded in Brooklyn, New York, and recently endorsed the campaigns of well-known local politicians such as Adrienne Espósito, who is running for state senate in the Third District; Dave Denemberg, a candidate for state senate in the Eighth District; and Phil Ramos, the current state assemblyman for District 9, who is running for re-election.

“We think it is very important for the community to have an opinion and a voice in politics,” said Valdés. “That’s why, after assessing [candidates’] proposals and track records, we decided to support certain politicians who are running at the state level, as well as for the legislative assembly and the senate.”

He stressed that a committee, which has had meetings and interviews with the candidates, [was responsible for evaluating them] and decided “to endorse them.”

Supporting Obama

Concerning immigration – a critical matter for the Latino community – Valdés said that Congress hasn’t done much at the federal level. Republicans in particular have not wanted to deal with the issue, which is driving President Obama to use his executive privilege to bring relief and benefits to a large immigrant community.

“In this sense, we’re already examining and planning [how we can] support these measures which will be taken at the federal level,” said Valdés.

He said that at the state level, MRNY will mainly be backing the bill to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, sponsored by state Sen. José Peralta from Queens. Peralta is seeking support for [the bill] when the upcoming legislative session resumes.

“The need for this essential [form of ID] – mostly for Long Island residents – is well known. [It’s important] for the distances they have to cover, whether they’re going to work or college. Above all, young students need it. That way, [people can] live peaceful lives without fearing that police will arrest them for not having a driver’s license,” he said.

MRNY is one of the largest organizations in New York State [comprised of] immigrants. Valdés oversees MRNY’s work in civil rights, education, housing, environmental justice, and immigration, as well as MRNY’s youth programs, its administrative functions, and operations.

President Barack Obama gave Valdés the White House Cesar E. Chavez Champions Of Change award for his work and commitment to defending immigrants’ rights.

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