On Voting

Did you guys hear Donald Trump’s speech on immigration? He gave it right after his random trip to Mexico. It was very scary. He talked about dangerous immigrant aliens roaming neighborhoods, committing crimes that are so heinous they’re unimaginable. It was over an hour of just really scary, really inflammatory words. You could hear his audience’s reactions. I think Donald is fueled by their reactions. So his speeches get more and more alarming the more his crowds respond with cheers and yelling and chanting.

“Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone.”

This week, I am starting to realize people don’t vote. More specifically, I’m realizing people my age don’t vote. People who can easily talk about how toxic Donald’s campaign has been for this country, who would never want him as president—they actually didn’t vote in the primaries (Donald won in Ga) and aren’t registered to vote in November.

I really can’t understand that. It’s very hard for me mainly because I can’t vote. Also because I will directly be impacted by whoever becomes president just like I was directly impacted by President Obama who signed DACA into existence.

But I also think there needs to be some sort of responsibility that American citizens should feel. Especially if you’re a woman. Especially if you are Black. But even if you’re White, there are people who fought at some point for you to be able to vote. There are people who thought this was really important. That having the ability to cast one vote actually reflected your wholeness as a human being and citizen. To be counted meant you are there, you are heard.

And here we are now. And there are people who are terrified of a potential Donald presidency, with all this talk of stop and frisk, and deportations, and banning muslims and refugees. But some can’t vote. Or people know that one vote won’t change anything. But what if all my friends voted? What if people who care about these issues actually came together and changed a state’s affiliation? It’s happened before. And this time around, it can happen again. (Ga is actually being considered a purple state right now as Hillary is running closer to Donald than Obama did to Romney in 2012.)

So, you guys, if you know me. If you care. Please. Please vote. It’s not only a right. It’s a responsibility.

P.S. People who think that non-citizens are going to try to vote need to sit down and do some deep-common-sense-thinking. Why would an undocumented person or someone who’s here with a temporary visa go into a govt run event and expose themselves in any way? Why draw attention to ourselves? Why risk our whole livelihood?? For one vote? Do you think we are that stupid or that patriotic? I’m very confused by this logic.

 

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Being Single (and Undocumented) is Hard

Did you guys see that article “Being Single is Hard” by Emma Lindsay? It was great. I read it out loud twice. I shared it with friends and coworkers. It was empathetic and real.

And it got me thinking about marriage and being single and undocumented. You see, it’s all of what that article said. And more.

The reality is: If I got married to an American citizen, I would no longer be undocumented.

This leads to people falsifying marriages so they can get papers. It leads to selective dating of only American citizens. And, for me, it also adds a lot of pressure. Because suddenly dating isn’t just about dating, it’s about the possibility of everything changing. Or it’s a waste of time—time that could’ve been used to be with someone else with whom it’d work out.

There’s also the obvious. How will this guy react to knowing I’m undocumented?

I like taking pictures of trees from underneath them. This one was in New Orleans (one of my favorite cities).

But even more than that, I hate the thought that I would owe this man so much. His marrying me would make me a citizen of this country I’ve been living in since I was 7 years old. What could I bring to the table that could ever even it out? How can I ever compete with that? I fear he’d hold it against me. Or worse: that I’d feel indebted to him and act like I were indebted to him for the rest of my life, despite his reassurances.

Add to that the fact that I’m Christian and I’ve followed all the rules I was expected to follow. That means I haven’t really dated. So my not dating has not only made it so I’m 27 and unmarried, but I’m also 27 and still undocumented.

I wish I could turn it off. I wish I could not think about all of this when it comes to dating. That I could just go for it carefree and hopeful. But I carry it with me. When do you tell a guy you’re undocumented? (Maybe referring him to this blog post is the answer.) What will he think of me? Will he think I’m with him just because of documents? Would he hold it against me? Is he ready to go through all the immigration processes marrying me would require? I carry these questions with me.

So yes to the article about how being single is hard. All that she said is so true. The expectation that we’re supposed to make ourselves “better” so we can get married. The fact that it’s harder to be healthy when you’re single. The lack of physical touch (especially when you’re Christian and restricted). Yes. All of these are a thing.

But, gosh, being single and undocumented is really really hard.

On Giving Back

“When you work with undocumented students,” she said to the group, “You have to encourage them a lot. They’re used to giving up on themselves. Many of them finish the whole college application but then decide to not submit it.”

I sat at a table with two nerdy white guys and a Puerto Rican girl around my age, a few older white men, and a white girl. One man was retired and wanted something to do. Another, you could tell had been a hippy since his 20s. The girl was applying to grad school. One of the guys was originally from Chicago and was there to talk to us about the ACT. We were all there for orientation.

“They’re just like regular high schoolers. They care about what they look like, and wanna date, and have smart phones. But they’ve experienced more disappointment than the average American student. They’ve grown up hearing they don’t belong, being told No over and over again. A majority of our job is to make sure we’re encouraging them.”

I wanted to cry. Here I was, getting involved with Freedom University, preparing to train undocumented students on the SAT. And here was this woman who runs the program talking to me about how hard these kids have it. About what they need.

Where were they 10 years ago?

Imagine if they’d been around 15 years ago for my sister Mara.

15 years ago, we didn’t know what to do after high school. We were raised in the suburb with majority white Americans. The high school counselors weren’t ready to help us. When I had my review in 11th grade, after the counselor told me I was in good shape and should start looking into FAFSA, I told him I was undocumented. First, he didn’t really know what that meant. When I explained it to him, he said “Sorry, then. I don’t know how to help you.”

We didn’t know anything about the SAT. Was it not just a test they give you during the school year? We had to schedule it? We had to pay? There were ways to study? We found all this out late. Everyone was ahead of my sister.

Her counselor, early on in high school, removed her from the college prep track because she thought Mara should be a cook. When she graduated, she didn’t even know she hadn’t been on the right track that would allow her to go to college.

“So, do they speak English?” one of the older men asked.

“Yes! These kids have been here most their lives,” she seemed frustrated with the question, “A majority of them come to the US between the ages of 2 and 6. They were raised here. They speak English.”

And I’m happy I get to do this now. To give to these students what I never had. But there is a sadness inside me I can’t let go of. The what-ifs. The loss. The timing.

Now go read this article:

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NPR’s article on Larissa Martinez and Mayte Lara Ibarra. Chelsea Beck/NPR.