The Long Island DREAM Coalition:
As Election Day gets closer and closer, many immigrants and our allies are crossing our fingers. The stakes are certainly high this year, and Jack Martins-, current senator for the 7th senatorial district and candidate for the 3rd congressional district on Long Island- is well aware of how important this election is to the immigrant community. In Alexandre Soares’ piece “For Republican Jack Martins, an Immigrant Story Worth Telling” Martin’s aligns himself with the immigrant community- as the son of immigrants, someone with strong ties to the Portuguese community in Mineola, and as someone who shares immigrant values. Martin’s states, “ I think personal initiative has always been part of the American dream, and of the immigrant’s’ journey as well. That you allow anyone who comes from anywhere to set his priorities on education, hard work, and to succeed – it’s an issue fundamental to the Republican Party.”
However, his voting record shows opposition to educational initiatives for the immigrant community. Senator Martin’s district includes Westbury High School, Mineola High School, and Port Washington High school, all schools with a large populations of immigrant students. Despite his responsibility to represent the best interest for these students, Senator Martins voted against the NY DREAM Act in 2014 when it was brought to the floor. If passed, this legislation would have allowed all students, regardless of immigration status, who have graduated from a New York high school to be eligible for financial aid for higher education. It failed by two votes.
In 2015, after Governor Cuomo added the NY DREAM Act to the state budget, Senator Martin’s further voiced his opposition to the New York DREAM Act, stating” how can we justify providing additional college benefits to illegal, non taxpaying persons when a full 70% of legal New York college students do not qualify for it themselves?”
This statement is not only factually inaccurate, immigrants do pay taxes and the New York DREAM Act does not take away financial aid from citizens, but it serves to reinforce the current anti-immigrant climate by perpetuating the myth that immigrants are stealing opportunities from US citizens. Martin’s has also contributed to this anti-immigrant climate by co-sponsoring Senate Bill S6032b, a legislation that would take away funding from local police departments that have a non-cooperation policy with Immigration Enforcement.
On Long Island, the immigrant community has been fighting an uphill battle- limited amount of non profit legal service providers, limited funding for programs for refugee central american children, ICE presence separating our families, and resistance form our Long Island senators to support the NY DREAM Act. We wish we could have an ally to immigrants, someone who shares our values, representing us. Senator Martins has not only been unavailable to meet with us for the past two years, but has actively opposed initiatives that would make education more accessible to the immigrant community.
The 3rd congressional district has a large and growing immigrant community in Eastern Queens, Hicksville, Huntington and Glen Cove. Their support will be crucial in the congressional elections. As such, it is important for candidates not only to bond with their constituents over shared values, but also to honor those values in Albany.