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Immigrant Voices Are Being Heard This Election

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Though many of them cannot vote in this Presidential election, immigrants are making their voices heard in what is shaping out to be a historic election for Latinos.

As we noted earlier today, a leading story emerging from early voting days has been that of Latino voters owning their power and coming out in unprecedented numbers against Donald Trump. Chief among those organizing this wall of Latino voters have been undocumented immigrants fighting to keep their families together in the country they call home.

Claudia, a member of DREAMers’ Moms, is one of the undocumented immigrants urging voters in her Florida community to vote in place of her family. From “Undocumented mom goes door to door asking others to vote”:

Saucedo is a domestic worker and lives in a mobile home in Broward’s town of Davie. While she has been waiting with bated breath to find out who the next U.S. president will be, she is among the undocumented moms who have been campaigning, making phone calls and going door to door to ask others to vote.

They fear this election will define whether or not their families will be able to continue living in South Florida.

“There is no greater pain than that of an undocumented family,” Saucedo said. “Most of us do everything for our children. We never imagined mothers would be separated from their children against their will. They don’t let them contact anyone, they don’t let them collect their things. You live with that fear.”

Saucedo volunteers for DREAMers’ Moms and other advocacy groups pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. She spent hours helping others to register to vote.

“I go out and protest and campaign and knock on doors, because I want everyone to know that we exist,” Saucedo said. “When you are undocumented, you lose your dignity. I have been paying taxes for years, yet I don’t have a document that accepts me as a real person in this country.”

Also in Florida, undocumented immigrants like Maria are laying out the personal stakes, one door at a time. From: “I don’t trust Mr. Crazy’: Motivated by opposition to Trump, Hispanics are poised for historic turnout”:

On Friday, Maria Bilbao and her son, Tomas Kennedy, jumped into their old Mercedes with broken air conditioning to explain what a Trump presidency might mean for their family. She was one of the five undocumented Marias canvassing around Little Havana.

“To be honest, I’m not voting,” said one woman, Maria Figueroa, 56, upon opening her door to see Bilbao and Kennedy. “They are both liars.”

Kennedy explained that he agreed the candidates were not the best, but one candidate was better than the other.

“This is my mother, and she is undocumented,” Kennedy told her. Their family moved from Argentina in 2001, when its economy was collapsing. They were told the wait list to move legally lasted 17 years. Kennedy received a reprieve through the Obama administration’s decision to shield from deportation many people who came to the country as young children. His mother is still at risk.

“If Trump is elected, we don’t know what he will do,” Kennedy continued. “He’s going to pull our family apart.”

“He is crazy,” Bilbao added, circling one finger around her ear.

Figueroa finally agreed she would vote. She wrote down the address for her polling place.

“It’s true,” Figueroa said, “he cannot be a president.”

As the sun beat down that afternoon, the Marias stood on the sidewalk and traded stories of their interactions with voters.

“I told her I cannot vote, but this country needs you to vote,” Maria Lima said, recalling another woman she persuaded. “Our dreams of better life rest on you.”

Remezcla profiles five undocumented immigrants, including AV’s Juan Escalante, who said that sitting out this election cannot be an option — anyone who has the right to vote, must exercise that vote this November:

I have had friends who have said that they don’t like either candidate or that they haven’t registered or that they don’t know enough about the election process or they’re not informed enough or what have you. But the thing that I try to explain to them is essentially what this election means for me. So I try to bring it back to my story and everything that we’ve been working toward.

My pitch to them is that their vote holds enough weight and enough power for them to elect the people who are going to decide my future in this country and who are going to decide the future of this country as a whole as well. Are we going to be a welcoming and inclusive nation that allows immigrants to have a shot at the American Dream or are we going to be a nation that tries to promote the racist and anti-immigrant values that we’ve seen from candidates like Donald Trump and the Republican Party?

Among those setting the stage for Latino and immigrant power has been United We Dream’s Greisa Martínez:

In Nevada, members of PLAN, Culinary Workers and others on the ground are organizing and flexing their muscles. One of Culinary’s members, Celia, has been fighting to keep her family together following her husband’s deportation, while simultaneously fighting unfair labor practices where she works. From “Latina hotel workers harness force of labor and of politics in Las Vegas“:

Ms. Vargas saw him last a year ago, for 30 minutes; she cries at the memory. She keeps his clothes boxed in the garage, and files document after document with the government, working toward that day when they might be reunited.

This and other travails consume Ms. Vargas. But she has returned to the work force, finding a job as a guest room attendant in this glittering gold nonunion hotel. It paid a little more than $14 an hour — about $3 less than what unionized housekeepers were making, and with nowhere near the complement of benefits.

Some of her colleagues began to agitate for a union vote. Union pamphlets and cards were surreptitiously exchanged in the parking lot, in the bathrooms, under tables in the employees’ dining room. Ms. Vargas joined in, motivated in part by the $17,000 in debt she had accumulated by undergoing surgery for breast cancer; she wanted better health care benefits.

At one point she and a few other workers were suspended for wearing union buttons, but this concerted union activity is federally protected. After the Culinary Union filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, she was quickly reinstated with back pay, her buttons intact.

It has not been easy. Downsizing after her husband’s deportation, selling her bedroom set, moving in with her daughter and her family. Publicly agitating for the union — and for the Democratic nominee for president — and then fretting that there might be retaliation at her nonunion, pro-Republican workplace. And working, constantly working.

“I tell my children, we have to work,” Ms. Vargas says. “It’s not for government to support me. We work work work.”

She pulls into the employee parking lot of the gold hotel, set aglow now by the unsparing morning sun. Searching for a parking spot, she passes other women, many of them also in black and gray tunics, hurrying toward the service entrance.

Soon she is heading for the same door, one more guest room attendant who wears a back brace while cleaning rooms for a presidential candidate whose name is on the bathrobes she stocks, on the empty wine bottles she collects, on her name tag.

He will receive her labor, but not her vote.

Culinary was among those behind this historic turnout of Latinos during early voting in Nevada: