Perspectives from Americans Who Can’t Vote

By Luis Fernando Aguiano

As November 8th draws nearer, those of us who are unable to cast a vote can do nothing but lay our futures in the hands of registered voters. The very ways we live are on the line, but can we trust that the American public will vote for someone that will not only work for them, but for us too?

I am, by definition, voiceless when it comes to the 2016 Presidential Election. So are over 13.1 million legal immigrants and 11.1 million undocumented immigrants that can only watch from their TV and hope for the best outcome. This election we have two presidential candidates, former First Lady Hillary Clinton and business mogul Donald J. Trump, who could either unite us all or tear us apart. Polls show that the American public is divided between voting for Hillary or Trump, but what do American residents who cannot vote think about the candidates?

I interviewed ten people from various backgrounds and ages to get their views on the election overall: five of Mexican origin, four of Chinese origin, and one of Vietnamese origin, ranging in age from 18 to 50. Most of the people I interviewed are from working and middle class families, one individual working two jobs. Some interviewees asked to not have their last names published to avoid being identified. I asked each and every one of them the following: whom they would vote for (and if they are voting for or against a candidate), what made them arrive at their candidate of choice and not the other, if they will be personally affected by the candidate that ends up winning the election on November 8th, and most crucially, whether they trust the American voters to vote for a candidate that will benefit people who cannot vote.

I got the same answer from all of the interviewees: they would definitely vote for Hillary Clinton. My follow-up question was why Mrs. Clinton and not Mr. Trump, given that Barack Obama, a Democrat, has deported more people than any other President? I decided to ask everyone of Mexican descent whether this would change their stance on voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Wilma Quiroz, a 36 year-old resident currently living in San Diego California, was not shocked by the news. “I know that Obama has deported many, many people, some of whom were my friends. Here in San Diego, having friends deported is not shocking news. I miss them, but I would prefer to be deported myself than have Trump in the White House.”

Yazmin Macias, a 41 year-old woman who currently resides in Mexico, was deported back in 2009 so she had strong feelings about this topic. “I would still vote for Mrs. Clinton, no matter what.” At this point she began to grow emotional as she retold her deportation process. “She promises to provide a path to citizenship, not mass deportations.”

Coincidently, all of the interviewees of Mexican origin support Mrs. Clinton because of her proposition to create a “comprehensive immigration reform”, as outlined on her website. Yazmin, a 23 year-old undocumented immigrant who crossed the border with her parents at the age of four, says she has been trying to become a citizen for over two years. “We have had mass deportations from Obama, this is the least that can be done for us. We just want to lead peaceful and productive lives like everyone else, we shouldn’t be every party’s target.”

Now that every interviewee had established that Hillary Clinton would be their choice, what drove them to choose her? Wilma argues that Clinton, “does not spread lies about us. He is a racist.” This is one of the many reasons why these individuals have decided to stand by Hillary Clinton, whom they see as favorable in comparison to Mr. Trump. Other reasons given as to why they do not back Mr. Trump were his  bad temper, controversial comments about women, and his decision to not release his tax returns.

Yerzin, a 24-year-old Mexican immigrant living in San Diego California and who asked to not put down his last name, is concerned about Donald Trump’s proposal to create a deportation force which will seek out undocumented immigrants, putting his entire family in danger. “We have been paying taxes for the past eighteen years, we work hard like everyone else,” he says. “We work for what we have, not have it given to us by our father,” referring to the loan Donald Trump received from his father.

Two of the four interviewees of Chinese origin support Hillary because she promised to provide a green card to those students who, “earn degrees in the Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (‘STEM’) fields” United State senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has proposed. Nick Van, a 19-year-old transfer student from Vietnam majoring in environmental engineering, is very focused on earning his residency. “It sort of gives me another reason to earn my degree. Not only do I get to earn my degree, but also a reason to live with peace of mind.”

Seven of the ten interviewees agreed that a Trump presidency would affect their lives in some way; some claim that he has already started to damage reputations. Yazmin Macias says she feels that Donald Trump’s claims about Mexicans being drug dealers, criminals, and rapists “affects the way that the rest of the world sees us. El claramente no nos conoce [He clearly doesn’t know us].”

Finally, I asked, do you trust that American voters will vote for someone who will work for everyone, both citizens and non-citizens living in the United States? Lizbeth, an 18-year-old resident living in San Diego with undocumented parents who asked to not have her last name published, believes American voters will choose correctly on November 8th, saying that the American public knows better than to elect a man with a temper “of a child . . . I think Americans will come to their senses soon.”

Others were not so sure about their answers. Zhaoheng Tang, an 18-year-old University of California Davis transfer student from China says he’s not so confident in American voters. “I have to trust you guys. I have no other choice.”

About the Author

Luis Fernando Anguiano is a U.S. resident studying political science at the University of California Davis. He has been involved in two political campaigns back in his hometown of San Diego, California.

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