New citizens stress importance of votingBy Yasmine Regester / October 14, 2016
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Leaders from the International Advisory Committee, the Islamic Center of Greensboro and Church World Service are encouraging people to vote.
The groups held a joint press conference at the Guilford Board of Elections with first time voters from the Bhutanese, Latino, Liberian and Sudanese communities on October 7, to share their stories and why they are voting in the upcoming Nov. 8 election.
“New citizens take their duty to vote seriously — they are listening to the news, they are aware of the needs of their community, they are hearing what politicians have to say and they are making their choice,” said Stephanie Adams, the Greensboro Office Director at Church World Service.
The first time voters shared their stories of overcoming various obstacles, whether it was a demanding work schedule or difficulty with reading and writing, to finally reach their goal of becoming U.S. citizens.
Dev Bhandari, a board member of the Bhutanese Society of High Point and a first time voter who grew up in a refugee camp, said, “I am proud to be a U.S. citizen. For me, this is the only country that gave me an identity with full of hope to dream big. For the first time ever in my life, my parents, who are on their mid-50s will be proudly voting with me.”
Susan Espinoza, a community college student whose parents are from Mexico will be voting in this election as a first time voter from a mixed status family.
“I am voting because my family sacrificed a lot for me to have this right, which they do not have. My parents are business owners and they contribute to the economy; I am hoping things will change after the elections,” said Espinoza.
Refugees have the same right to vote as a natural born U.S. citizen.
“America is the heart of the world. When we vote for the president and representatives, we can change things for our community here and across the world,” said Abuabida Ibrahim, a Sudanese community leader who will be voting in his first presidential election. “It is very important for us to vote because we did not have the right to do so over there where we came from. We have that right here and we must honor, appreciate and use that right wisely.”
Wasif Qureshi, president emeritus of the Islamic Center of Greensboro (ICG) also spoke addressing the freedoms that people fleeing their home countries have been stripped of, such as civic opportunities like voting.
“The United States is not only a land of economic opportunity, but also a country which provides its citizens with civic opportunities. This gift of the individual vote that has been given to U.S. citizens must be utilized to its fullest potential,” said Qureshi.