My name is Dominic Saraceno and I would like to take a moment to respond and provide the facts about a letter to the editor published on Friday by Kevin Guthrie.
I was born Nabil Hakim, and like many, moved with my family at the age of 6-months to the United States to have the opportunity to experience the “American Dream” for a better life in 1968. My father was a well-educated psychiatrist, and practiced medicine at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center from 1968 to 1988. Throughout my entire life I have witnessed and experienced bullying and racism firsthand because of our birth name. That experience did not stop me from attaining my dreams of going to college, then onto law school and becoming an attorney.
Shortly after graduating from law school in 2000 and passing the New York State Bar, my wife and I decided to move back to Niagara Falls to be close to her family. I opened my own law practice and business was booming. Then on Sept. 11, 2001, my entire life changed in a moment. I was subjected to extreme forms of racism. In addition to losing clients, I received daily threatening voicemails which left me no choice but to change my name in order to have the ability to earn a living and support my family.
Mr. Guthrie stated that this “behavior” is cultural appropriation. I will call it what it is, blatant racism. Choosing my new “fake name” (as Mr. Guthrie calls it), was not something I took lightly. I researched my family history and found that my great-grandfather had the last name Saraceno. Even though I was born in Syria, I also have Armenian and Italian heritage that runs through my blood.
I am not the first person in this country, or in Niagara Falls, who has changed their last name for the opportunity to have a better life. My wife’s grandfather, who many of you may have known as John Teeto, was born Tito Amantia.
My name has nothing to do with my background, experience, and credentials to be your next Niagara Falls City Court Judge. I am the only candidate running to have over 20 years of experience as a Niagara County and Orleans County public defender, as well as a successful criminal defense attorney representing over 10,000 clients in the last two decades. I have represented clients in some of the most complex criminal matters in Western New York.
In addition, I have been endorsed by the Niagara County Conservative Party, as well as the Western New York Association of Retired Law Enforcement Personnel. I am the only current judicial candidate running for this seat who received the “Triple Crown” of ratings. I was rated “Highly Qualified” by the Western New York Women’s Bar Association and rated “Well Qualified” by both the Niagara County Bar Association, and the Minority Bar Association of Western New York. These ratings are the highest a non-seated judicial candidate can receive.
Since moving to the United States as an infant, I have never known any other way of life other than the American way. When you go to vote on Primary Day, June 22nd, whether it be in person, early or by absentee, I ask that you consider my qualifications and experience to be your next judge, and not my ethnicity.
Dominic Saraceno is a candidate for Niagara Falls City Court Judge.