The Local Summit Addresses the
Impact of Refugees on Our Community

Jirandy Martinez and Frank Pierson

By Larry Thaul


On February 7 , at the Local Summit of Larchmont/Mamaroneck’s Zoom meeting, presenters provided  an explanation of the U.S. Immigration system, told where the immigrants are coming from, what is their status, how and by whom they are being helped, what contributions they are making to the economy, and what myths surround the immigration population. 


Frank Pierson, Vice President and immediate past president, Neighbors for Refugees {NR}, presented the extent of global displacement. More than 100 million people worldwide are either displaced from their homes in their country or seek refuge/asylum in another land. Current immigration policy is highly political. Those who are admitted legally come to the U.S. mostly come from 5 countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and South Sudan. He defined refugee status to include anyone fleeing their country due to violence or persecution but more broadly to include asylees and those here under humanitarian parole or ‘temporary protective status.’


Since these are legal immigrants, they are permitted to work and are eligible for governmental benefits (e.g. SNAP, Medicaid), pay taxes, and their children are allowed to enroll in school which sometimes involves catching up for years living in transit/limbo. 


Pierson said that those arriving under programs like United for Ukraine or Operation Allies Welcome (for Afghans) receive temporary protective status which lasts 18-24 months. This also applies to some Haitians and Venezuelans. They receive food stamps, Medicaid, and limited temporary financial assistance. Generally, they must reapply for permanent residency and potential citizenship.


Refugees settle here despite the high costs for various reasons: they have a personal connection or find a common cultural group. Other reasons are job opportunities, a willing fiscal sponsor, or simply luck of the draw. NR provides sponsorship, housing and set up, help with living expenses, employment/job training, and school enrollment/tutoring. ‘Road to independence’ grants are made to obtain a driver’s license or a computer. NR provides loans, advocacy and education including presentations to local groups to demonstrate how to welcome/accept the refugees. Refugees seek jobs and independence within 3-4 months while kids adapt and learn English. NR support lasts up to 12 months but their strong relationship with NR continues beyond that time. NR has resettled 40 families over the past 6 years. 


Jirandy Martinez, Executive Director of the Community Resource Center in Mamaroneck, described their services for all families in need but mainly for low wage essential workers primarily from Central and South America.  She differentiated between migrants. seeking a better life and asylees who are fleeing for their lives and cannot return home and may be eligible for government support. In contrast, refugees leaving voluntarily do not generally receive support. She pointed out how Mamaroneck has long prospered from waves of immigrants. Industries such as fishing and construction, and more recently, restaurants and landscaping create employment opportunities. Mamaroneck is near public transit which helps in finding work. Currently the Mamaroneck population is roughly 25% immigrants.


Martinez dispelled the myths surrounding the immigrant population: they do not take away jobs but rather do the work otherwise left unperformed. They are not eligible to collect excess government benefits. They pay taxes. They commit fewer crimes because they don’t want to get arrested and risk deportation. More often they themselves are victims, suffering from wage theft, domestic violence, crime and scams, while underreporting these incidents. 


Workforce development is the primary reason people connect with CRC using its Hiring Hall for job placement/training. Both presenters agreed that affordable housing and employment are high priorities. 


The government hopes to get 5,000-10,000 refugees into the country in this manner this year. There is one circle here formed by people from Westchester Jewish Center and Larchmont Temple sponsoring a Ukranian family.


The Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit is an informal community council that seeks to make a better life for the community by keeping it informed of major issues of concern. Join them for the next meeting which will be Tuesday, March 14 at 8:00 a.m. when they hear from municipal leaders. Visit