After news broke that New Paltz business owner Luis Martinez was detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in January of this year, community members were immediately alarmed. After the detainment of Matthew Rojas late last year, it seemed that the deprivation of human rights brought on by ICE was showing no signs of stopping.
To combat this, New Paltz resident Ronnie Yastion, in conjunction with Town of New Paltz Councilman Dan Torres, created “One Pulse- New Paltz,” a fund to aid families in our community who have had family members detained by ICE.
After hosting several events to raise money and awareness for the homecoming of Martinez, Yastion was contacted by Nobody Leaves Mid Hudson, an organization that brings awareness to gaining rights for undocumented citizens. Here, Yastion became more aware of the struggles faced by members of our own community.
“To be honest, I didn’t know the extent to which people were living in fear and suffering in and around my own community,” Yastion said. “It was heartbreaking to hear that a place where I feel so safe and comfortable could be so hostile to others.”
According to Yastion, in most situations, the family member detained by ICE ends up being the breadwinner for the family, leaving the other parental figure (who often cannot drive) to watch after the entire family and attempt to make ends meet. In many situations, they are not able to so much as leave the house to purchase food, seek employment or attend their places of worship.
“I have sat with some of these people and had conversations with them and it is heart wrenching” Yastion said. “Undocumented immigrants need our help, and in New Paltz, people are willing to help.”.
“One Pulse- New Paltz” is Yastion’s way of helping. According to its mission statement, the goal of the fund is to “provide immediate financial assistance to individuals or families impacted by detention and deportations living in the New Paltz Central School District.” The statement goes on to highlight some of the costs of living that the money raised will help cover, such as housing, groceries, child care and legal representation.
To assist Yastion and Torres with the preservation and administration of the funds, Family of New Paltz stepped in. The local organization has 501c3 status, which allows them to collect donations exempt from taxes.
“Working with Dan and Family on this fund has been wonderful as we are all on the same page and see that this is an important step for our community to take to support those being persecuted in our community by ICE,” Yastion said.
While the fund is not currently in need of volunteers, they are always open for donations. For those interested in volunteering, Yastion suggests the aforementioned Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a group she praises for their “excellent work!”
To learn more about “One Pulse- New Paltz” and how to donate, visit their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/OnePulseNewPaltz/.