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Local advocates focus on push to register minority, immigrant voters

Rodman Serrano, field coordinator for the Long Island

Rodman Serrano, field coordinator for the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, speaks during a news conference about newly registered voters on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Just hours after taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen at the Alfonse D’Amato U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip on Tuesday morning, Yehobani Villalobos marked another milestone by registering to vote.

Villalobos, 41, is among the 2,187 newly registered voters reached by local advocacy and civic organizations since the spring. The groups — which advocate for women's health, immigration and other issues — marked National Voter Registration Day at a news conference Tuesday at Planned Parenthood of Nassau County in Hempstead.

“I feel happy, it’s a big thing for me,” said Villalobos, a native of El Salvador who now lives in Brentwood and works for the Nassau County Parks Department. “My position in the country is better.”

Villalobos gained citizenship and registered to vote with help from Make the Road New York, a Brentwood-based organization that serves immigrant communities on Long Island.

Javier Guzman, an organizer with Make the Road New York, said his group is one of several working to register minority and immigrant community members ahead of November's midterm elections. Make the Road New York provided Villalobos with a lawyer and paid all his expenses in his pursuit of citizenship.

The collective includes Choice for All, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County and the Women’s Diversity Network.

Advocates said there is plenty at stake at this year’s midterm elections, including the protection of immigrants, adequate public education and access to affordable health care and housing.

The groups said Tuesday they plan to knock on tens of thousands of doors across Long Island in the lead up to Nov. 6.

National Voter Registration Day is a nationwide effort marked on the fourth Tuesday of September to encourage people to register to vote or to update their registration. The deadline to register to vote in New York State is Oct. 12.

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