Photo courtesy: Suffolk County Legislature
Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez visited the Ammerman campus April 2 to discuss how rescinding temporary protected status for immigrants and recent efforts to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals would affect our community and the nation.
Martinez, whose district includes Brentwood, Central Islip and North Bay Shore, gave her presentation as part of a week-long series of programs called “Fight Ignorance, Not Immigrants” organized by the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding in collaboration with the SCCC Undocumented Student Task Force.
Martinez, who emigrated from El Salvador at age 3, grew up in Brentwood and was a social studies teacher at Brentwood High School for 10 years. She also served as assistant principal at a middle school in Brentwood for four years.
“I could have had the opportunity of leaving Brentwood. I could have been living anywhere else, bought a home somewhere else, but I decided to stay at a place where it made me,” Martinez said. “I grew up in Nassau County, in Lynbrook. I was the only Latina in the entire district. So for me, coming to Brentwood was a huge culture shock. Now I was interacting with students who were from the same background as me, same religion as I am, and it was different. But I can only tell you that Brentwood actually opened the doors for me, to diversity and to understanding others, because of the diversity in our community.”
Martinez said she understands the adversities and day-to-day challenges residents face and has been an advocate for immigrants and Dreamers during her time as a Suffolk legislator.
“At the county level, we need to do our best to not only advocate for what we believe in, but pass measures, not just the ones that I’m doing, to make sure that our immigrant community feels safe, that there is someone there to listen to them, and someone who will respect them as humans,” Martinez said.
Martinez explained to students and faculty that TPS is given only to immigrants from specific countries facing natural disasters or civil unrest that the Department of Homeland Security deems unsafe for individuals to return. These immigrants have been given the right to work and live in the U.S. temporarily. Once the U.S. decides that these countries are livable again, TPS holders are given a date when they must leave the country. TPS does not provide immigrants with a pathway to citizenship in the U.S.
Rescinding TPS for these immigrants, Martinez said, will have negative impacts on Long Island as well as the entire nation.
Long Island business, mostly restaurants, landscaping, and construction, many of which are located in areas such as Brentwood, may face closure, because of the loss of many employees and clients in the community who are TPS recipients. Nearly one-third of TPS recipients are homeowners, meaning that many home foreclosures on Long Island are possible as well.
Revoking TPS could lead to repercussions such as economic crashes, the possible separation of nearly 273,000 children born in the U.S. from TPS holders from their parents, and a $164 billion loss in GDP over the next decade, she said.
Martinez also spoke about the dangers of repealing DACA, an immigration policy that allows those who were brought to the US illegally as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to become eligible for a work permit, who are better known as Dreamers.
“For no fault of their own, parents have brought them here, under the age of 18, and they’ve grown here. This is their country too, believe it or not. Only because they’re not citizens doesn’t mean that they’re not part of the American fabric,” Martinez said. “I will defend them because they’re not doing anything wrong. They are people who are trying to make ends meet, they’re trying to make families here, and just call this place their own too.”
“For a legislator that’s only had two terms in office, she’s done quite a bit. I work with her very closely in the community, she’s very involved and very, very engaged in a lot of community efforts and someone that has extensive knowledge and personal knowledge about the process of immigration and what we call being a Dreamer,” said Renee Ortiz, executive director of the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding.
Ortiz said that the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding, along with the SCCC Undocumented Student Task Force, created the series of programs to educate SCCC about how recent decisions concerning immigration policies impact our neighbors, and how students can make a difference.
“It’s a series of different programs on each campus to just educate folks about the process of immigration, how recent changes in legislation are going to impact residents that are immigrants, or undocumented. Also just to give folks a more personal perspective of what it is like to live in fear of being deported, especially when individuals do have presently legal status, but are at risk of losing their status because of the recent changes,” she said.
Nieves Alanso-Almagro, a professor of Spanish and college coordinator of foreign languages who attended the presentation, said that the best way for students that feel strongly about this issue to make a change is voting.
“You have something that is very powerful to help our neighbors that are TPS recipients and DACA recipients — you have the power to vote that they don’t have. Overcome apathy, vote in your local elections, vote on federal elections, and that’s the way to change things,” she said.