Guest blog post by Paola Navarro
I came to the United States from Colombia in 2000 as an international student to get my master’s degree. My goal was to return to Colombia after I finished with my degree. But after I graduated I found work as an early intervention specialist, providing support to struggling mothers and their children during their first three years of life. They were immigrants from all over the world who had come to the United States to provide a better future for their families. I found it to be a very rewarding job, one that connected with my own experience as an immigrant. So, I postponed my plan to return to Colombia and continued working in the United States.
In 2006, I got married to a U.S. citizen; we had our first child in 2008. I had a green card, but I was not allowed to vote. Still, I wanted to do something during the 2008 presidential election, so I decided to knock on doors in New Hampshire. I remember telling my husband on a trip back from Colombia, “for the first time I feel like I am coming home instead of leaving home.” I had my second child in 2011, and finally decided to get my citizenship in 2013. I also gained a stronger desire to have a voice that would affect my children’s futures.
When I think about being able to vote in this country, it reminds me of when I voted for the first time in Colombia. At that time, voting meant becoming an adult and being independent from my parents—it meant that I had my own voice and could have different opinions from them. Now that I have the power to vote here I feel a similar sense of empowerment as I did when I was 18—only this time, I feel I am not only giving voice to my own views; I am speaking for a much larger community.
Tomorrow will be the first time that I vote in the United States. I am voting for my children, who were born here and can’t vote yet, so they can have good schools and economic opportunities like I had. I am voting for my community, which includes immigrants from all over the world who wake up early in the morning to go to their jobs, many working three shifts so they can provide for their children. I am voting for my children’s teachers, many of whom are immigrants from Central America who are teaching my children how to be citizens of this country and to love it the same way they do because it has offered them freedom, safety, and opportunities.
There are so many people who cannot vote and need those of us who can to exercise our voice and our power. That is why I am voting tomorrow. I hope that you will join me.
Paola Navarro is married to Loren McArthur, Deputy Director, Civic Engagement, NCLR