Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CALIFORNIA VOTER STORY: After 28 Years In US, Voting For 1st Time

Here's an amazing story coming from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA):

Listen to a short Spanish-Language interview with Zoila here.

In 1980, Zoila Taque had a small store in Guatemala, when she decided to come to the United States on a whim. She was trying to move on from a broken-hear and thought she would try a change of scenery in the United States. She had planned to stay for a couple of years, but then found a job at a local manufacturer in Los Angeles with good health benefits. During this time she was apprehended three times in raids by immigration agents. The third time, an agent joke with her that this time she would not return to Guatemala. She grew worried, but then the agent informed her that she was eligible for legal permanent residence through 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

By the 1990s, Zoila was clear that she would never go back to Guatemala, the United States was her new country. But she delayed applying for citizenship for fear that she might not qualify. A good friend of hers was always telling her to go the marches, but she didn’t think her participation was necessary. In 2007, this same friend insisted that Zoila apply for citizenship. The fees were going to almost double and there was no reason not to. She cracked open a large ceramic frog that had served as her piggy bank for many years. She had enough money to pay for the application fees and less than six months later she was sworn in as a citizen.

“I feel like I have a purpose,” says Zoila of her first time voting. Twenty votes could make a difference whether or not a candidate is elected or not and I can be a part of that.

Zoila now works as a household worker, but with the economic crisis has found employers less willing to offer her the work hours she needs to make ends meet. She began to volunteer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) in early October. She didn’t really know much about the propositions, but jumped at the chance to give back to her community and also learn more about the ballot measures on the California ballot.

“Many of the voters have spoken to haven’t read their sample ballots and don’t know that Proposition 6 will harm young people and immigrant communities. I also want people to know that the bad economy is not my or any other immigrants fault. I work and although I’m diabetic I have no health insurance. Our vote is something that can unite us.”

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