US il­le­gal im­mi­grants see elec­tion as cru­cial

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

There was never any doubt Juana Al­varez’s 18- and 20-year-old Amer­i­can-born daugh­ters would be tak­ing part in the elec­tion this year. Al­varez did her best to see to that. “I had two peo­ple I wanted to get reg­is­tered and I reg­is­tered them,” Al­varez, a 39-year-old house­keeper in Brook­lyn who came to the US from Mex­ico as a teenager, said through a trans­la­tor.

For Al­varez and the es­ti­mated 11 mil­lion other im­mi­grants liv­ing il­le­gally in the US, this is a po­ten­tially cru­cial elec­tion, with Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump talk­ing about mass de­por­ta­tions and a bor­der wall and Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton pledg­ing to sup­port im­mi­gra­tion re­form and pro­tect Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions on be­half of im­mi­grants.

Come Elec­tion Day, these im­mi­grants will be watch­ing from the side­lines, their fu­ture in the hands of oth­ers. Un­der the US Con­sti­tu­tion, only full cit­i­zens can vote; le­gal im­mi­grants who are green card hold­ers also are not al­lowed to cast a bal­lot. Trump has spo­ken of fears of elec­tion fraud or that im­mi­grants liv­ing il­le­gally in the coun­try might vote. More broadly, he has said all im­mi­grants should play by the le­gal rules.

Al­varez and oth­ers like her say al­though they can’t vote, they have been tak­ing part in get-out-the-vote ef­forts among cit­i­zens. In places like New York, Cal­i­for­nia, Ari­zona and Vir­ginia, they have been knock­ing on doors and mak­ing tele­phone calls, reg­is­ter­ing peo­ple, urg­ing them to go to the polls, and telling their sto­ries in hopes of per­suad­ing vot­ers to keep the in­ter­ests of im­mi­grants in mind when they go into the booth. “For me, it’s im­por­tant that those who can vote come out of the shad­ows and make their voices heard,” Al­varez said.

Power in their hands

Is­abel Med­ina, a 43-year-old from Los An­ge­les who has been in the coun­try il­le­gally for 20 years and has three sons, two born in the US, has worked phone banks and taken part in voter reg­is­tra­tion drives for US cit­i­zens, mak­ing sure that “even though they’re frus­trated, they are dis­ap­pointed, they still re­al­ize it is re­ally im­por­tant, that they know the power that they have in their hands.” She says she em­pha­sized the need to vote for all the races, not just the pres­i­dency, and the im­por­tance of tak­ing part in ref­er­en­dums and propo­si­tions.

Even though these im­mi­grants can’t vote, their pre-Elec­tion Day ef­forts make a dif­fer­ence, said Ka­rina Ruiz, 32, of Phoenix, who came to the US il­le­gally from Mex­ico when she was 15 and is act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ari­zona Dream Act Coali­tion, an im­mi­grantad­vo­cacy group that has been do­ing get-out-the-vote work. “It is mak­ing an im­pact be­cause those peo­ple who wouldn’t vote other­wise, when they lis­ten to my story and hear their vote does count and make a dif­fer­ence, they’re en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate and be my voice,” said Ruiz, who has a work per­mit and an ex­emp­tion from de­por­ta­tion un­der Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pol­icy. — AP

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