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Local communities prepare response to Trump’s immigration measures

  • Published in Local

Akieal Williams, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago who lives in Long Branch, is concerned that President Donald J. Trump’s stance on immigration could harm the community he lives in and enjoys.

Recently laid off and on the search for a job and a solution to gang activity, Williams was shocked to learn at a meeting of Our Voices Matter that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs could potentially end soon.

Several Republican politicians wrote to Trump this summer calling for him to end DACA by Sept. 5, inspiring anxiety in local immigrant communities.

“They don’t know where to go. They’re scared,” said John Angel, a Long Branch business owner. “What are we going to do?” he said about what people have been asking.

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Immigrants long for role models as they adjust to life in their new home country

  • Published in Local

This is an ongoing series devoted to the stories of Montgomery County’s immigrant population.

In 2005, Claudia Paiva, then 15 years old, boarded a plane with her family from Peru to the United States, attracted by the prospect of university scholarships for Paiva and her older brother.

“It’s very expensive for a middle-class family to send a kid to college in Peru, and there aren’t as many scholarship opportunities as there are here,” Paiva said. 

Paiva and her family came to the U.S. on a six-month tourist visa and remained in the country without papers after it expired, living as undocumented immigrants for several years.

“Peru is a very traditional, very religious country,” Paiva said. “When we got here, my parents became very protective and repressive, and I resented them for that for a long time.”

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Immigrant fear continues

  • Published in Local

Local children apparently afraid while at school parents will be deported

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Anxious calls of concern are coming into both the Montgomery School District’s main offices and individual schools as parents work to deal with their fears about whether they or their children might be deported due to their immigration status.

“Parents are concerned,” said Montgomery County Public School District Spokesman Derek Turner. “We’ve heard from up-county, and we’ve heard from down-county,” he said, explaining that the calls aren’t just coming from a few isolated areas.

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"I came here with dreams"

  • Published in Local

County resident remembers fleeing violence for hope here

 

When the popular restaurant Silver Diner on Rockville Pike first opened for business on Feb. 14, 1989, its future operating partner was a teenager in civil-war-torn El Salvador.

Fleeing the violence in his native land, Omar Martinez, then 14 years old, crossed Guatemala and Mexico before entering the United States by swimming across the Rio Bravo into Texas in the middle of the night on Dec. 28, 1989.

“I came here with dreams to live in different sort of world where I could go to school and make positive contributions to American society,” Martinez said.

Soon after his arrival in America, Martinez was detained by the immigration authorities and was held in a minors’ detention center for roughly two months. He was eventually released into the care of his uncle, who was then a legal resident of Rockville.

After relocating to Rockville, Martinez began attending Montgomery County Public Schools and took his first job at Silver Diner, as a dishwasher. He learned English in school and eventually took advanced classes at Montgomery College.

“It took me about five years to become fluent in speaking English,” Martinez said. “It’s taken me a lot longer to learn how to write it properly.”

As Martinez started a family, he advanced at Silver Diner, working nearly every job at the restaurant before he was offered the position of general manager at Silver Diner’s Tyson’s Corner location. In 2005, he returned to the Rockville location to become its operating partner and has worked there ever since. During his tenure, the diner’s revenue has increased substantially.

“One of my dreams was to be a contributor to society, and I’ve been able to do that here in Rockville,” Martinez said, citing Silver Diner’s financial contributions to support health and wellness programs in area schools. He received an award from MCPS in 2014 as the business owner who had done the most to support the schools.

Martinez formally became an American citizen at a ceremony in Baltimore in 2001. He said that he has always felt welcome in America, but that the rhetoric and proposals of President Donald Trump, who on the campaign trail called for mass deportations of illegal immigrants and the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, have alarmed him and many in his community.     

“Over the last year, the news that we’ve been hearing, particularly from the new president, has been very scary to my Latin American community,” Martinez said. “It’s something that keeps our friends and families awake at night.  This is the kind of threat that a lot of us came here to get away from. There was a big celebration many years ago when Germany knocked down its wall, but now, seeing that they want to build a wall here in our own backyard, separating out families is very heartbreaking.”

Martinez said he would like to show those concerned about losing jobs and resources that immigrants make significant contributions to the American economy.

“I am a businessman and I would have to say that I am very successful, and I feel that if I don’t have the workforce from other countries, I would have to close this business,” Martinez said. “Mr. Trump says he wants to rebuild American infrastructure, but he also says he wants to deport 11 million people.  If he does that, who’s going to build all these new roads and bridges? I did not come here to take jobs from Americans. I came here so that I could build something, give back and create more jobs for this wonderful country.”

@Petersrouleau

 

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Muslim doctor gives back to his community

  • Published in Local

SILVER SPRING, Maryland – For the past 10 years, Dr. Ashraf Meelu has paid out-of-pocket to offer basic health care in clinics open to the public.

The 64-year-old Muslim doctor from Lothian, Maryland, along with a few volunteers, spends Friday mornings providing flu shots, measuring blood pressure and offering other health treatments at a Guatemalan consulate in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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Giving Thanks - Not Lip Service

 

mysweetyWhen I was but a wee lad and the extended family met for the holidays, most notably for Thanksgiving or a Christmas dinner, we’d separate into two camps.
The adults had a long, extended table where my grandparents and their children and spouses ate dinner. The kids, well we were assigned a couple of card tables replete with paper plates, plastic cups and dishes while the adults ate from the fine china.
While the kids constantly fought and argued about cartoons or football, the adults held discussions about art, literature and business – for my grandfather forbade any discussions on politics or religion.

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Nothing to fear but . . . what?

 

FDR

When did we become so damn scared? When did fear overtake us? Was it on 9/11? Why is everyone so afraid of Donald Trump? Or, why is everyone so afraid of Hillary Clinton?
Fear is nothing I would use to describe either one of them.
It isn’t just the Presidential race which strikes fear in our hearts.

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Language barriers found in wake of fatal fire

  • Published in Local

Silver Spring fire 8-11-16County Council members were briefed on language barriers that hampered firefighters and other personnel during the fire at the Flower Branch Apartments. FILE PHOTO

A County review of the aftermath from a gas-fed fire that killed seven at the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring revealed a language barrier between County officials and tenants.

Many of the tenants are immigrants from Latin America who spoke Spanish as their primary language. They had trouble communicating with firefighters and other County personnel in the immediate aftermath and days following the fire.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger, Fire Chief Scott Goldstein, Director of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Earl Stoddard and the Chief Administrative Officer for Montgomery County, Tim Firestine briefed County Council members Sept. 27.

“That’s a gap, that ought to be addressed,” said Council member Tom Hucker (D-5) about the language barrier between County staff and the victims of the fire.

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Undocumented immigrants negotiating broken system

  • Published in State

WASHINGTON--Yves Gomes was not born in the United States, but has known no other country.

A 23-year-old Montgomery County resident, Gomes is one of millions of undocumented people in the United States who could potentially be affected by the United State Supreme Court’s decision in Texas v. United States.

Gomes, who has been in the U.S. since he was an infant, faces deportation if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to overturn President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

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