Mr. Trump’s claims that “illegals” voted in the November election, costing him the popular vote, adds insult to injury. Undocumented immigrants in this country are one of the most marginalized groups of people, with almost no rights, and certainly with no voting rights. Undocumented immigrants have already been negatively impacted by his days-old presidency, with Trump unveiling a series of executive actions that resemble a witch-hunt.
The very fact that they are undocumented prevents them from having an official identity. Not only can they not vote, they can’t so much as get driver licenses in most states. Only ten states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico offer driver licenses to undocumented immigrants.
The essence of being undocumented is that you do not exist in this country. You do not have an identity, you live in the shadows, and you stay hidden. I was undocumented for over a decade, and witnessed George W. Bush and Barack Obama be elected President. I didn’t cast a vote in those elections, not because I opted-out, but because I didn’t have the ability or the right to vote.
A defining issue in my undocumented experience was the fact that I did not have any form of American I.D. The only official document I had, with my picture and my name on it, was my Mexican passport that was issued by the Mexican consulate in New York City.
When I was in my early twenties, I was turned away from several bars that said my passport was not an official I.D. Let that sink in, a bar wouldn’t accept my form of I.D. My passport didn’t have a valid visa on it, and showing it at TSA to board a plane carried with it the risk of deportation. As an undocumented person living in this country, I didn’t have the right to so much as enter a bar, or board a plane without fear, let alone the right to vote.
When I finally received permanent residency in 2009, after marrying a U.S. Citizen, I was finally able to obtain a driver’s license. In order to get my license, I had to show my social security card, my green card and two proofs of address. It’s worth noting that under our current broken immigration system, people who cross the border illegally cannot adjust their immigration status even if they marry a U.S Citizen, or have U.S. Citizen children. I was 11-years-old when I took a plane ride to the U.S with a tourist visa. When my visa expired, I became undocumented, and because of the fact that I didn’t cross the border illegally, I was able to fix my immigration status through marriage.
It would be another five years before I became U.S. Citizen. At last, on August 8th, 2014, I was sworn in as a United States Citizen and I finally earned my right to vote. After twenty years of living an anonymous life of fear, I finally EARNED my right to cast a ballot. I registered to vote in California and had to provide my driver’s license number, and social security number in order to register to vote. When I was undocumented I had neither a driver’s license nor a legit social security number.
On November 8th, 2016, I showed up to my polling place as a new American citizen, California driver’s license in hand, and voted for the first time in a presidential election. I was 33. So no, Mr. Trump, undocumented people cannot vote. To tell the American people that undocumented immigrants voted, when they do not even have the right to drive, is an insult to our dignity and a complete lack of understanding of our experience in this country.
I had to endure over a decade of living in fear, terrified that I would be deported. Normal, every day, inconsequential happenings such as driving, carry a great risk for undocumented people, every day they risk being torn-apart from their families.
Mr. Trump lost the popular vote because the majority of the American people do not stand for the type of hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexists policies he has begun to enact in his first few days in office. If he wants to improve his popularity, he can start by reserving courses and passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship, so millions of undocumented immigrants can earn the right to vote and become a full part of American society.