DUSA held its fourth DUSA Citizenship workshop January 28th, Eighteen-year-old participant Carolina discusses her reasons for deciding to naturalize, and the importance of this milestone.This citizenship initiative is possible thanks to support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York
Listen to one of our volunteers speak about his experience with DUSA during our Dusa Citizenship workshop on Saturday, Dec. 17.
After three years working as a canvasser in New York City, Austine Martinez has learned a lot. Like how to tell whether passersby are of Dominican descent – it’s everything from the music they play, to the language they’re speaking, to the way they look.
“Little things like that, you learn on the job,” he said on a sunny afternoon spent recruiting voters in Corona, Queens.
The knowledge comes in handy in his position as a junior organizer with Dominicanos USA, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in the Bronx. Alongside other canvassers, Martinez has spent hours at a time pounding the pavement in heavily Dominican and Latino neighborhoods across the city like Corona, Washington Heights, Inwood and Bushwick.
Since its inception in 2013, Dominicanos USA has registered more than 140,000 voters in the Northeast, including more than 100,000 in New York and more than 30,000 in Rhode Island, where a smaller office is based. The organization’s goal is to increase the political participation of Dominicans, the largest Latino ethnic group in the city, by enabling them to vote and helping them become naturalized citizens.
Its employees and volunteers knock on doors, hand out flyers and make phone calls. But the bulk of Dominicanos USA’s efforts are focused on sending trained canvassers, like Martinez, to walk through communities, along commercial corridors and past busy intersections, in search of unregistered voters.
“We have very dedicated canvassers of all ages that have been out there in rain, snow, cold weather, doing voter registration the old-fashioned way,” said the nonprofit’s national executive director Eddie Cuesta in a phone interview.
The organization targets specific neighborhoods and even buildings based on a statistical model developed by Catalist, a data company based in Washington, D.C. Called the “Dominican model,” it uses data from the census and the city government to identify areas with the highest concentrations of Dominicans. While Dominicanos USA doesn’t exclusively register Dominican voters, this approach helps the organization to efficiently find its primary demographic, said Cuesta. And it enhances traditional “get-out-the-vote” methods, like canvassing and setting up tables.
“We get to meet a lot of people and develop those bonds with the community,” said canvasser Yohan Diaz. At the same time, talking to strangers every day means learning to get used to rejection. Some people he approaches can’t vote because they are foreign citizens, and many are suspicious or just uninterested.
Speaking Spanish helps, of course. And so does persistence. “A lot of people say no, but there’s always that one person that makes it worth it,” Diaz said.
In Austine Martinez’s experience, non-citizens from the Dominican Republic are often the ones who wish they could register. “In DR, everyone votes. Politics are big,” he said.
In the United States, the concerns of Dominican voters don’t differ from those of other citizens, according to Cuesta. The economy, affordable housing, education and immigration are all on the minds of Dominican Americans. “They’re very politically savvy,” he said.
But there are certain aspects of voting in the United States that some immigrants aren’t familiar with, like needing to register for a specific party in order to vote in primary elections, or finding the right polling place. Local residents often call or visit the Dominicanos USA office on E. 149th Street in the Bronx to ask for help, said Cuesta. And educating these voters is part of the organization’s mission.
But since the deadline to register for the presidential election passed on Oct. 14, the organization has begun to focus on making sure that registered voters follow through.
On Election Day, Dominicanos USA will provide car rides and pedestrian escorts for voters who need them. Some employees will wait outside polling places before they open at 6 a.m., making sure that they open on time and that interpreters are present. Others will come back in the evening, when many people leave work and vote, to answer questions. Others will stay in the office to monitor the phones, which ring constantly, said Omar Suarez, New York state director.
For Suarez, Election Day begins at 4 a.m. and won’t end until late in the evening, after the polls close. But the long, hectic hours of directing employees and answering phone calls are worthwhile to reach a group he feels is underserved.
“Most of the talk about the Hispanic vote, the Latino vote, it’s all filtered through somebody. This is not filtered. You just talk to them,” he said.
source: Voices of NY
DUSACitinzenship – Dominicanos USA is excited to announce that we are officially expanding our services into helping our community become US Citizens! With this new program, called DUSA Citizenship, we plan to engage the Dominican community in the naturalization process.
Our mission to empower the Dominican-American community is best displayed when we attend naturalization ceremonies because we have the opportunity to register brand new American citizens to vote. We enjoy attending these ceremonies because it allows us to meet people at the end of the long road to citizenship and congratulate them. The process to become a US Citizen is a lengthy one and these ceremonies are the culmination of that. They are addressed by various officials of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and are treated to a video of President Barack Obama congratulating them on receiving their citizenship. (more…)
Nueva York – En una victoria para la comunidad Domínico-Americana, la organización Dominicanos USA (DUSA) supero su meta de registro de votantes y anuncio que tiene registrado más de 100,000 Domínico-Americanos en Nueva York y Rhode Island en su primer año de esfuerzos de registro como parte de su campaña, ‘Road to 100k.’ “Este logro pone a nuestra comunidad en el mapa político de una gran manera, “sacamos la pelota fuera del parque,” dijo Natalia Rosa, la Directora Estatal de Rhode Island. “Este es un gran logro para Dominicanos USA,” dijo la Secretaria de Estado de Rhode Island Nellie Gorbea. “Aplaudo sus esfuerzos para involucrar a más residentes de Rhode Island en el proceso cívico.”
Onida Coward Mayers, la Directora de la Asistencia hacia el Voto en la Junta Financiera de la Campaña de Nueva York y soporte fundamental de los esfuerzos de Dominicanos USA, hizo eco de los mismos sentimientos, diciendo, “esta campaña comunitaria y innovadora para movilizar a los Domínico-Americanos servirá como un modelo para empoderar a todos los grupos menos representados en nuestro país a registrarse y votar.”
Estas noticias demuestran el éxito este año al inaugurar el primer registro de voto nacional, que incluye movilización, organización y educación orientada hacia los votantes Domínico-Americanos. “Estamos muy contentos con este magnífico logro de parte de la comunidad Domínico-Americana además de agradecerles a nuestros socios comunitarios que nos han ayudado a convertir esto en una realidad. Muchas gracias a todos ustedes,” declaro Eddie Cuesta, el Director Estatal de Nueva York de Dominicanos USA.
“Es increíble, el triunfo que Dominicanos USA han logrado como líderes en la comunidad Latina en tan poco tiempo, utilizando el primer modelo de votantes Dominicanos,” dijo Manuel Matos, abogado, líder comunitario, miembro de la junta directiva y portavoz de Dominicanos USA. “DUSA está respondiendo al llamado para elevar las voces de los Dominicanos y nosotros reconocemos que el trabajo no termina con el registro de los votantes solamente. Seguiremos luchando para ayudar a los Domínico-Americanos para que sean los arquitectos de su futuro y el de sus familias en este gran país.”
Acerca de Dominicanos USA: Dominicanos USA es una organización sin fines de lucro, 501C-3 no partidista, que busca empoderar, educar, y movilizar a los votantes Domínico-Americanos. Nosotros somos la primera organización de votantes Domínico-Americanos en mantener contacto con más de 75,000 votantes registrados en los Estados Unidos.