Undocubus. Photo: Aura Bogado
Voter ID schemes are largely rooted in an unfounded fear about undocumented people casting ballots. Yet, despite a deeply anti-immigrant climate, undocumented immigrants have participated in this year’s electoral process unlike ever before.
Just yesterday, undocumented youth rallied in front of Republican Linda McMahon’s Bridgeport, Connecticut, office, demanding to know how the candidate for US Senate stands on the DREAM Act and immigration. McMahon, the former head of the World Wrestling Entertainment, has so far spent more than $27 million in her bid for Senate. And although she’s heavily courting Connecticut’s Latino voters, she has yet to define her position on immigration in her Spanish language ads. Her opponent, Chris Murphy, already supported the DREAM Act when he voted for it two years ago in the US House.
And although activists have rallied together in previous elections, 2012 marks the first time undocumented people are directly demanding answers from candidates. Meet Kemi Bello. She was an Undocubus rider, a ride we followed as it made its way to the DNC in September. For Kemi, it’s hard to accept that politicians decide the future for undocumented immigrants, who are barred from voting. In this dispatch, she explains how her community is finding ways to engage in the electoral process.
Barred from Voting, Undocumented People Create New Forms of Political Participation
Texas, the state I am proud to call home, became the fifth state to gain majority-minority status last year as our nation overall begins to look browner. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily getting easier for people of color. We’ve also shift towards staunch conservatism, including Tea Party–oriented groups like Harris County, Texas-based True the Vote, and the surprising primary victory of Texan Tea Party Senate candidate Ted Cruz. The push back, meanwhile, saw a victory in a federal court’s decision to block a voter ID bill that would have disenfranchised an estimated 1.4 million Texans.
On the federal level, the Obama administration has overseen the deportation of more than 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in less than four years—more than any other administration in the history of the United States. This as states in the South are contributing to a de facto policy of mass deportation by adopting their own attrition through enforcement doctrines.
At all levels, the immigrant undocumented community is under attack. Survival as an undocumented person has reached a critical mass. It means pushing back against the entire political system itself, all while your lack of papers bars you from the most basic form of civic engagement: the right to vote.
Voter suppression and anti-immigrant sentiment are rooted in the same unwillingness by those in power to yield to the political shift brought on by the nation’s ever-changing demographics, whether through poll taxes and literacy tests in 1960s Mississippi or Arizona’s show-me-your-papers requirement in 2012. The same question remains: How do we force the political system to recognize and respond to the fact that we exist?