Left to right: CARECEN staff Mirna Cortes, Ken Lederer, Pat Young, and Yolanda Figueroa (Credit: Jose Oquendo)
Yesterday was the annual Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade in Brentwood. The parade almost did not happen because of the bad economy, but it was saved by community leaders like Margarita Espada and Renee Ortiz. In addition to the usual fun at the parade, the Long Island Civic Engagement Table had volunteers registering spectators to vote. In all, 124 people were registered in one afternoon.
But the best part of the event for me was the parade committee’s decision to honor my organization, CARECEN, with its community advocates award. CARECEN’s Executive Director Ken Lederer accepted on our behalf.
CARECEN opened our Brentwood office in 1991 to help Salvadoran refugees in Suffolk apply for the new temporary protected status. Today, it serves several thousand immigrants each year with help for everything from reuniting families to applying for citizenship.
From 2008 to 2012, it was our base for countering hate crimes in Suffolk County and the anti-immigrant propaganda of former County Executive Steve Levy. Now, we use it to work on issues like improving language access to county government for people with limited English proficiency. We also offer courses in American history and civic education there for people becoming citizens as well as our other citizenship work in conjunction with the Long Island Civic Engagement Table.