SEPA Mujer Celebrates 20 Years

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A great night for immigrant women.
A great night for immigrant women.

Saturday saw the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of SEPA Mujer, the immigrant women’s rights organization on Long Island. Those honored were Jenny Cruz, Miriam Chocron, Mary Beth Moore, and Jackeline Saavedra. The organization is directed by the very able Martha Maffei.

I remember the early days of SEPA Mujer. Liz Newman, a CARECEN staff attorney approached me back in 1993 with the idea of beginning an outreach and organizing effort in the Central American community focused on women. We gave her funding for a half day a week to work on the project, and CARECEN’s Yolanda Figueroa Lederer came up with the organization’s name. Mirna Cortes and Marianne Mendoza of CARECEN became part of the founding group of women who got the new independent organization off of the ground. Former CARECEN staff attorney Miriam Chocron was honored on Saturday for her pro bono work with SEPA.

For many years, SEPA worked for inclusion of immigrants in the Violence Against Women Act, assisted the victims of domestic violence, and developed programs to empower women. In recent years, Martha Maffei and Jackeline Saavedra have greatly expanded the work of SEPA and made it into a major player on the Long Island immigrant scene.

Congrats to Liz Newman, the original visionary of SEPA, to Marth Maffei for her piloting of the group in the modern period, and to all of the women who built SEPA.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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