First Latina Hempstead Town Clerk: ‘I Am a Symbol’

Sylvia Cabana talks about her priorities as the first Latina town clerk in Hempstead. (Photo via Noticia LI)

“I am a symbol of what is starting to happen in the United States: Latina women are becoming interested in being part of the government, in political participation and in promoting positive change,” said Sylvia Cabana, the first Latina to be elected town clerk in Hempstead. She will be in charge of the official registries for documents such as birth and death certificates and marriage licenses, and organizing children’s programs. She has already begun incorporating the Spanish language at work.

Cabana, who has 20 years of experience as an immigration lawyer, started working in the Town of Hempstead in January 2018, and she said that doing so fills her with pride and motivation because she is the daughter of immigrants, an Argentinean father and a Cuban mother.

“My parents taught me to be proud of my roots and my culture, and ever since I arrived in the Town of Hempstead, I have been spreading that sentiment,” stressed Cabana. As part of her job, she visits the schools of Hempstead’s 22 villages promoting reading programs for kids.

“I am surprised to see the number of schools with bilingual programs for children where Spanish is important. When I read to them, I do so in both languages. I want kids, the children of immigrants like me, to be proud of their culture,” said Cabana.

“We are enduring a presidential administration that is tough on immigration, and I am noticing that children are the most affected. They may start feeling scared about their roots. They know what is going on with their parents, and I want to use my position to do everything I can to help stimulate their confidence,” she pointed out, adding that children must understand that being part of the Latino culture is a good thing.

In addition, Sylvia is developing a pool safety program for children, and her goal is to create a free soccer camp in Hempstead’s parks. “I know many kids are interested in the sport and it is expensive for the parents,” she said

A few months after she began working for the Town of Hempstead, Sylvia Cabana collaborated to sponsor document translation and interpretation services in different languages. She also promotes a program offering seminars in Spanish to help homeowners learn about tax deductions.

Caban, who is a Democrat, and the town’s tax receiver Don Clavin, a Republican, decided to create the program together, political partisanship notwithstanding. “I don’t care which political party you favor, in government we must work jointly for all residents,” said Cabana.

“Many homeowners are missing out on available tax relief because they do not know how to obtain it, and that is why I think it is important to make this information available in Spanish,” she said.

At the seminars, participants receive information on how to obtain deductions for home improvements, for having limited resources or for being senior citizens, and about taxpayer rights and making online bill payments, among other topics.

Sylvia Cabana believes that her position implies a duty to serve efficiently, adding that she always had an interest in politics during her years as an immigration lawyer, noticing some aspects that need work. However, she only made the decision to run shortly after the Trump administration took office.

“With everything I saw at the start of this government, I decided that it was time to do something for the people, and that is what I am doing,” explained Cabana.

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