She’s a junior at Queens College who cares about her friends and family and fostering relationships between them. I ask her why she doesn’t bring up politics and government: she simply states that it’s because she doesn’t feel like it really affects her. When I hear anyone say this to me, my first response is to attempt to hold back the wince in my face that I know is almost impossible to miss: as is the steam that begins to come out of my ears. But alas, there is always more than meets the eye.
What Clara doesn’t share, is that she is not a U.S. citizen: she is a permanent resident. Permanent residents cannot vote, even though they legally live and can live, work, and study in the country for the rest of their lives. Now does that make any sense? You can live in a country: work, study, pay tax dollars, purchase health insurance, but you can’t vote. Doesn’t that seem almost unconstitutional?
When the camera stops rolling Clara opens up about how she knows politics and government matter, but there isn’t a space for her, and other college students to just discuss and debate about domestic and international politics. For her, what is most frustrating about U.S. politics is that she does not have the right to have her voice heard. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one. Among the others are undocumented immigrants and documented immigrants without citizenship status. Because that sounds too cold, I’ll explain who they are: they’re people like Clara, people you love, people you cherish, and they matter just as much as you do.
This is what I leave you with: today, I choose to get involved for myself, and the people who are not given the constitutional right to vote, and you should do the same. It’s crucial to not take your power of voice for granted, as there are people who would gladly use it but cannot. If you don’t get involved for yourself, do it on behalf of people like Clara who work, sleep, study, live, eat, and breathe in a nation that feels like home, but keeps them from being represented in what is supposed to be the most inclusive system in the world.