News

Undocumented People Are Unable to Vote but Continue to Mobilize and Impact U.S. Elections

(Image from PBS)

by Jennifer Manzano, Fall 2020 Intern

The right to vote is deeply embedded in the core principle of the United States. Many of us grow up hearing how people have historically fought for this right through actions such as the Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage Movements. Voting is broadcasted as a right and duty of citizens to adhere to our democratic system and hold the power in change that is to cast a vote. However, to over 11 million people in the U.S., the act of standing at a voting poll to submit a ballot is not obtainable nor the reality. With over 11 million people who are undocumented and approximately 800,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, roughly 3 percent of the U.S. population is ineligible to exercise the act of voting for a candidate.

Much how immigrants have historically created their own light at the end of a tunnel, not having this traditional ability to elect their representatives has not silenced our undocumented community. Many have taken this matter into their own hands and created their own path to amplifying their voices and ensuring they have a say in what happens during elections. Seeing the grassroot movement in a heavy election period such as in 2020 is nothing new; undocumented youth and immigrants are often the first to mobilize and be at the frontline to impacting their communities. These courageous acts often come with the risk of arrest and great vulnerability to being open about personal stories and experiences.

A study conducted by the organization United We Dream found that 94.4 percent of DACA recipients reported that they were planning to encourage friends and family to vote in upcoming elections. This study found that 46.1 percent of DACA recipients have increased their political involvement after receiving DACA. Nationally, initiatives by immigrant organizations have been a key to encouraging and increasing undocumented peoples’ political involvement. Advocacy groups such as Aliento Votes (based in Arizona) and Here to Stay Squad (a campaign under United We Dream) have recruited over 95,000 people to mobilize and stress the importance of voting for upcoming elections.

With reaching millions of eligible voters through phone banking, canvassing, conversations, teach-ins, and other voter reach innovations, undocumented people are refueling our nation’s stance on voting while educating their peers. Our undocumented community refuses to be silenced by the policies in place. Instead, it continues to achieve what was once thought to be unbelievable.

How to Support Undocumented People During an Election Period?

1. Don’t ignore harmful policies or rhetoric surrounding immigration

During elections, we all have policies that are first on our mind and at the top of our priority list. However, don’t allow your priorities to completely ignore the reality and status of others. Make time to educate yourself and even question “How can I create allyship?”.

2. Support people who want to use their voices during the elections

This can be done in a variety of ways but the foundation of this is to simply listen. Actively have these important conversations regarding policies and elections to hear their perspective and knowledge on the topics at hand. You can even go so far as to create a space for these conversations or join them in the act.

3. Check-in

Elections can be emotionally heavy and draining. Especially if your peers are out in the field speaking to hundreds of people a day. Take a moment to check-in on these individuals and see if there is anything you can do to aid them.

Immigration Advocacy Organizations to Check Out

  • Aliento
  • Mijente
  • Movimiento Cosecha
  • NYSYLC
  • United We Dream

Sources

Hancock, C., Smith, C., Svajlenka, N. Young voters have the power to support dreamers this November. Center for American Progress. October 2018.

Home | Latino Americans. (n.d.). Retrieved January 05, 2021, from http://www.pbs.org/latino-americans/en/

Munoz, Jose. Even with COVID-19 and changes to DACA, DACA recipients are civically engaged ahead of the elections. United We Dream. Oct 2020.

Williams, Amanda. These DACA Recipients Can’t Vote, But They Want To Make Sure

You Do. NPR. Oct 2020.

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only. It is not to be assumed that the opinions are those of GALEO or the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund. For the official position on any issue for GALEO, please contact Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of GALEO at jerry@galeo.org.