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Brand-New Immigrant Voter: “When I Vote, I Will Be Standing Up For My Community”

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Immigrant voters know how much is at stake this Presidential election — just ask José Gallego, a member of Make the Road Action in New York.

Gallego, who came to the US in 2010, writes in a Newsday op-ed that anti-immigrant rhetoric from this Presidential election spurred him to become a citizen not just for himself, but to become a voice for the voiceless in the immigrant community.

An excerpt from Gallego’s Newsday op-ed, “Becoming a citizen in the era of Donald Trump,” is below:

I came to the United States in 2010, when I was 19. I immigrated because my father and his family were here, and I wanted to get a college education, which was out of reach in my native Colombia. I attend Suffolk County Community College, and work part time to help Long Islanders enroll in health care.

Life here hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had people call me ugly names and give me dirty looks because I’m Latino and an immigrant. Still, I’m proud to be an American.

Over the past year, though, I felt greater urgency to become a citizen. Since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign using slurs and fomenting hatred against Mexican immigrants here illegally, and then became the Republican presidential nominee, I’ve heard scary proposals about building an enormous wall along the Mexican border and launching mass deportations. And then I’ve seen some Long Island politicians stand with Trump, no matter what horrible things he says. So, as soon as I was eligible to submit my citizenship application earlier this year, I sent in the paperwork.

Feeling my family and community under attack, I knew that I had to become a citizen so I could vote — not just for myself, but for millions of parents who risk being torn away from their children.

Talking to friends who have just applied to become citizens, it’s clear that Trump is driving us to the courthouse and to the polls. Now that we have the power to vote, we are going to do that to protect our families and friends from bigotry.

When I vote for the first time on Nov. 8, I will do so knowing that I will become part of the decisions that are made in Washington and in Albany. I will go there thinking of my family, my friends, and my neighbors, and knowing that, when I vote, I will be standing up for my community.

In another piece, Newsday highlights another Latino voter and New Yorker, college student Rodman Serrano, who is diligently working to register hundreds of people to vote this year and beyond:

On Friday, classes done, Serrano, the son of immigrants from El Salvador, set out at a brisk pace to snag new registrations. His goal is to hit 400 by Oct. 14, the last date new voters can register.

“Are you registered to vote?” he asked, over and over again, zigzagging between darn near everyone in his path. At one point, he reached out to skateboarders, and to people soaking in the sun on benches. And he moved fast enough to keep up with the waves of fast-moving students going to and from classes.

Serrano does not register voters on behalf of any political party or candidate. “It is just easier to register people to vote without mentioning any candidate,” he said.

As for personal preference, Serrano, who puts in time for a variety of voter-registration groups, including Make the Road New York, said he was learning toward voting for Clinton because “Trump’s immigration policies would break up families.”

In the library, at the student activity center or on pathways — it didn’t take long for Serrano to register six new voters.

Serrano says he has persuaded people in their 40s and 50s, and a few in their 60s, to register. “They’re always interesting to talk to,” he said.

He’s also had success with those just past the legal federal voting age of 18 — along with voters in their early 20s, whose birth dates came too late to qualify to vote for president four years ago.

Serrano was 18 then. And he did not vote. “I regret that,” he said. “I had an opportunity to have a say and I did not make use of it.”

Perhaps that’s why he carts a clipboard full of voter registration forms, already at the ready, in his backpack.

And that’s not likely to change, after Monday’s debate or November’s election.

Serrano, a junior, hopes someday to teach middle or high school students in the Brentwood school district. “I can help motivate my future students to go out and vote,” Serrano said.

Like Johnny Appleseed?

“I think that’s a good thing,” Serrano said with a wide smile.