Human Rights Lawyer Joins LI Latino Nonprofit

Andrew Strong (Photo by Johnette Howard via The East Hampton Star)

Back when Andrew Strong worked as a human rights lawyer based in the Netherlands, he said he felt “a bit self-conscious” as an American attorney working on UN cases. He explains to The East Hampton Star‘s Johnette Howard: “You’re talking to these people from the Balkans or Africa, and you turn around and think there are some real issues happening in America. There is work to be done right here.”

Now living in the East Hampton area, Strong is working on some of those “real issues” after joining OLA of Eastern Long Island in June for a three-year commitment as the Latino advocacy organization’s first full-time human rights lawyer. In an interview with Howard, he addressed some of the issues facing immigrants in today’s environment of heightened fear.

“It’s hard because immigration on the federal level is broken, and it’s been intentionally broken,” Mr. Strong said. “And so, for one of the first times in American history, you can’t change your status. You can’t marry an American and become a citizen. You can’t live here peacefully for 10 years and pay taxes and have a path to citizenship anymore. So, there’s no way that people can adjust their federal status.”

“Then, on a state level, since 2007 you can’t get a driver’s license [in New York] without having documented status,” Mr. Strong continued. “And then, on a local level, you have a geography out here that requires a car and a transportation system that doesn’t really work well enough. But you need a car. So what do you do?”

Howard noted that the the immigration crackdown has also impacted local business owners who could not secure work visas to bring in workers from other countries this summer. Meanwhile, undocumented workers here continue to endure wage theft, poor working conditions and other forms of abuse.

In addition to working with immigrants, Strong aims to strengthen the network of OLA’s immigration lawyers.

Ms. Perez and Mr. Strong are also actively engaging local institutions such as the town police chiefs and town supervisors in East Hampton and Southampton. They’ve asked them to publicly state the town’s policies and/or codify them into legislation that clearly states nonviolent members of the community will not be targeted so the community knows what it doesn’t have to fear, and what it does.

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