Hempstead Fire Dept. Opens Doors to Non-Citizen Volunteers
NYCLU Advocacy Leads to Revised Admission Policy
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Following New York Civil Liberties Union advocacy, the Hempstead Volunteer Fire Department has amended its admission requirements to allow non-citizens to serve as volunteer firefighters.
The admissions policy, which previously required that only U.S. citizens could be considered to serve as volunteers, was recently revised by the Fire Department’s governing council.
In March, the NYCLU wrote to the Fire Department on behalf of Oscar Parraga, a legal resident of Hempstead and an Ecuadorian immigrant with extensive firefighting experience in his native country. Parraga was told that he was not eligible to serve as a volunteer firefighter because of his citizenship status.
“We are gratified that the Fire Department has recognized that discriminatory citizenship requirements pointlessly exclude highly qualified and motivated people from service,” said Samantha Fredrickson, chapter director of the NYCLU’s Nassau County Chapter. “Hempstead and other communities with large immigrant populations should encourage all residents to participate in civic life.”
Parraga, who owns and operates a fire-protection business in Hempstead, has lived legally in the U.S. for nearly five years and plans to apply for citizenship. He graduated from college in Ecuador with specialized studies in fire protection.
“I appreciate the Fire Department’s willingness to change its policy and give me the opportunity to serve my community,” Parraga said. “I look forward to using my experience and expertise to help protect my neighbors.”
The NYCLU had advised the Fire Department that excluding non-citizens from serving was unconstitutional and only weakened the pool of eligible volunteers. It argued that such discriminatory policies only isolate the immigrant community and create distrust between public officials and the people they serve.
To download a copy of the NYCLU’s letter to the Fire Department, visit here
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