We are building community power.
LICET transforms the culture of civic participation and government accountability on Long Island by nurturing grassroots participation and leadership in working class communities of color.
LICET works with these communities to turn the tide of anti-immigrant and anti-worker politics and build a common platform of economic and racial justice on Long Island. We do this in four key ways:
- Increasing civic engagement through non-partisan voter registration, education, and mobilization;
- Training and supporting a new generation of leaders and grassroots organizations;
- Coordinating grassroots organizing campaigns to build power in Long Island communities of color; and
- Providing naturalization assistance to immigrant Long Islanders.
Since forming in 2011, LICET canvasses have now contacted more than 100,000 Long Island voters of color, educating them about local issues and mobilizing them to vote, and we have registered more than 15,000 people to vote. Our leadership development programs have trained representatives of over 75 Long Island community organizations, including 24 young leaders of color who have received full-time, summer-long training and organizing experience through our “Movement Building Organizers” program. And we have worked with partners to build coalition and coordinate campaigns on redistricting, immigration reform, police reform, language access, and other issues.
LICET’s model—combining electoral mobilization, grassroots organizing, and coalition- and capacity-building—has helped establish it as a central place for building grassroots leadership and political power for working class immigrants and communities of color on Long Island.
Our approach is a direct result of the history of immigrant and working-class advocacy on Long Island, and the political climate reigning at the turn of the decade.
|A "Get Out the Vote" press conference for our very first election cycle, in 2011.
Through the early 2000s, Suffolk County became the principal laboratory for anti-immigrant politics in the northeastern United States. Following a major demographic transformation—the immigrant population more than doubled since 1980 and the Latino population rose to approximately 250,000—extremists channeled their anger and organized themselves.
One of our first community leadership trainings, in 2011.
Egged on by opportunistic politicians, restrictionists in Suffolk County lashed out with demonstrations and policy proposals to target undocumented workers, day laborers, and the entire immigrant community.
The result: what the Southern Poverty Law Center deemed a “climate of fear” for Suffolk’s immigrant community. This tragic sequence of events culminated in the hate murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue.
Immigrant rights advocates in Suffolk County responded, warding off the worst of Steve Levy’s proposals and drawing attention to the hate crime problem. But there was plenty of work left to do. Although communities of color constituted almost 25% of Long Island's population, their electoral power hadn't been fully seen. Workplace violations and discriminatory policing continued, and the doors of government remained largely closed.
|Opening our shared office with Make the Road and NYCC in 2012.
To address these ongoing problems, LICET was formed to shift the balance of power, building grassroots and electoral infrastructure across working-class communities of color on Long Island. We seek long-term wins on racial and economic justice, and strong leaders and organizations across the region.
Long Island is also strategically crucial, and a political bellwether at the state and national level. While New York City has been reliably progressive and upstate New York has remained largely conservative, Long Island has been increasingly up-for-grabs in both legislative and electoral contests. Communities of color have grown substantially while the white population is declining.
In national immigration politics, because of Suffolk County's reputation for anti-immigrant violence, the power of coalition organizing is profound. Our work on immigration reform with Long Island partners on immigration reform led to Rep. Peter King publicly adopting a public pro-comprehensive immigration reform stance, a remarkable feat given that he previously advocated for English-only laws.
As recent years are demonstrating, it is possible to go from “negative” to “positive” in immigration and working-class politics. With electoral organizing that builds sufficient political muscle to make politicians reconsider anti-immigrant appeals, and grassroots organizing to achieve concrete policy victories, we have an opportunity to show the nation how a region that has been heavily anti-immigrant can be transformed into a place that welcomes immigrants, protects them, and honors their contributions.