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Jan 28, 2009 11:21 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Immigration forum highlights work of young Latino activists

Jan 28, 2009 11:21 AM

Six years after activist Isabel Sepulveda de Scanlon started the Organizacion Latino Americana, a support group for Latino residents, she’s hoping a younger generation of activists who’ve grown up in East Hampton will succeed in creating an affiliated support group for Latino youth.

OLA YG—the YG stands for Younger Generation—recently held a kickoff party at Town Line BBQ in Sagaponack. The younger generation, as well as OLA’s original founders, will hold an immigration forum today, January 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the meeting room in the Bridgehampton National Bank headquarters on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. Representatives from the state and federal government and pro-immigrant advocates will explain potential changes to immigration policy in the new administration and will discuss the impact the economic downturn will have on immigration.

Ms. Sepulveda de Scanlon said that she was thrilled that a core group of five talented young people—all of whom are either leaders in their high schools or are embarking on promising careers in the United States—have stepped up to work on Latino issues here.

The group’s founders include Isabel and Natalia Saavedra. Isabel is a 2006 graduate of East Hampton High School, now in her junior year at SUNY Westbury, who just began an internship with Amnesty International in Washington, D.C. She plans to become an immigration and human rights lawyer. Her sister Natalia is a senior at East Hampton High School and hopes to study international relations or political science.

Another founder, Ross School senior Johanna Saldana, just went to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration with the Congressional Youth Leadership Council. Arlette Flores, a 2006 graduate of East Hampton High School, who is working in order to save money for college, and Cornell student and East Hampton High School graduate Paul Munez round out the group.

Natalia Saavedra, whose parents came to the United States from Colombia legally 10 and a half years ago, spent most of her teenage years watching her parents struggle to become residents after losing their visas. She said that their struggle led her to want to work to help other Latinos on the East End.

“There were so many injustices along the way,” she said. “In high school, I would see Latinos not getting along with whites, and the relationship they had made me want to help out.”

She and her sister met Isabel Sepulveda de Scanlon while volunteering at events for presidential candidate Barack Obama last year, and, shortly thereafter, proposed the idea for an OLA group for younger people.

“There are so many things we want to do want to get the Latino population excited about something so they can join the community a lot more,” said Ms. Saavedra.

She said that one of the biggest challenges that she sees younger Latinos face is their parents’ inability to offer help with college preparations. She said that many parents are too busy working and may be frightened because they didn’t come to the country legally.

“Most immigrants come here for a better education or leave their country because they’re having trouble back in their country,” she said. “They get here and are so overwhelmed with work that they don’t have time for their kids or to help out with the next step of going on to college.”

Arlette Flores agreed. “A lot of immigrants are scared to go to college, being here illegally. But they can go,” she said.

Ms. Flores has been very involved with the Special Olympics. She said she hopes OLA YG will partner with that organization.

“These are just ideas. We would love to have some type of meeting place. The only real meeting place is the YMCA. I would love to have a place where people can talk and hang out and share cultures,” said Ms. Saavedra.

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This sounds great a positive step in the right direction The Latinos are a big part of our community and now a big part of our culture, My best wishes for success
By harbor man (47), sag harbor on Jan 21, 09 9:25 AM
Hooray to the younger generation! These kids - white, black, Latino, Asian, native American - they have such intelligence, insight, and pride. They are breaking down barriers and creating a world where everyone will be heard. I am so pleased to know that the future of America is in their hands.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jan 21, 09 4:39 PM
Wow this is amazing, I know how they feel. I would love to help the community as well. My mother and I help the latino community in sufflok county to fill out forms that they might need help with and most of all help them to apply for health insurance. I'm glad to hear that there is more out there helping out. We don;t just help the latinos but we help anyone out there that might need help with their health insurance or any other type help they might need.
By E (11), Southampton on Jan 22, 09 12:46 PM