MELS Helps Member Take First Steps to Citizenship


Brayhan Martinez, a Timekeeper at the Department of Correction and a Local 1549 member, is a go-getter. Born in San Lorenzo de Los Mina in the Dominican Republic, Martinez arrived in the United States with his family at three years old. While growing up, he grabbed every opportunity to achieve success.

“It wasn’t easy for us, but Mom provided for my little brother and me. She gave us a remarkable upbringing,” Martinez said.

When he was growing up, Martinez found a passion for baseball and later became interested in the technical aspects of the construction field. As a young teenager, he made an important decision and obtained his Green Card.

“I went to Gramercy Arts High School, learned how to sketch, and started formulating that skill into something I can take into the construction world,” Martinez said. “I learned how to use computer programs to sketch out layouts.”

Due to family financial issues, Martinez had to leave school before graduating, moved to upstate New York and completed his diploma through the HSE passage program at SUNY Orange.

“I took the skills I learned and my overall knowledge of construction and started my contracting company at 18,” said Martinez. “This is one of my most significant accomplishments. But, unfortunately, it is on hold because the pandemic slowed everything down.”

Now a proud DC 37 member, it did not take too long for Martinez to take the next step and apply for U.S. Citizenship.

“I want to grow and help those around me. I see myself as someone who can see a problem and develop a solid solution to serve everyone better,” Martinez said. “I cannot be this person if I do not grow within. If I can vote and participate in the political process, this brings me closer to making a difference.”

Martinez called the DC 37 Municipal Employee Legal Services and was assigned Cynthia Yahia to assist with his application and paperwork.

“I needed someone I could trust to take my information and guide me in this process, and she was outstanding,” Martinez said. “She explained everything thoroughly. It was quick — not more than a week until she submitted my paperwork.”

His application is now with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. After a background check and an interview, Martinez will take his Citizenship Test and be sworn in as a United States citizen.

He thanks DC 37 and MELS for giving him this opportunity to move forward toward this vital goal.

“The people at the union who advocate for us truly serve their purpose,” Martinez said. “I am truly grateful for their help and that these services are available. I’m also grateful to have people like Cynthia who work for DC 37 and that they care for us.”

He added, “I always stand behind my union because my union always stands behind me.”

For information on MELS legal services, obtaining U.S. Citizenship, or to speak to an attorney, please call 212.815.1111.

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