First-Generation voters prepare for Election Day

In fifth grade, Iliana Jacobo helped her parents study for their American citizenship so they could live in the U.S. as free citizens. This year, Jacobo will see their hard work pay off as she votes alongside her parents on Nov. 8.

Jacobo, a marketing major, believes one of the most important issues this election is the environment and what candidates are doing to ensure climate justice.

“I look for what measure or party is going to help bring climate justice, not the opposite,” Jacobo said. “I look for candidates who have climate justice at the top of their agenda.”

Jacobo’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, however, since becoming naturalized citizens they have urged Jacobo to vote. She said her parents believe voting is power and with it you’re given a voice.

The Pew Research Center reported in 2013 that there were 20 million children born to immigrants above the age of 18, making them eligible to vote in America.

“Me and my parents talk about voting sometimes,” said Erica Uwaka, a first-generation SF State student of Nigerian descent. “They can’t vote but they always tell me who they would vote for and they’re like ‘you’re lucky you can vote so you should vote.’”

Uwaka is the first member of her family to have the ability to vote. The upcoming presidential election will be Uwaka’s first time voting, not only for herself, but for her parents as well.

“There’s a lot of discussion in the household regarding both the presidential candidates and what they stand for,” said Anisha Chauajn, a first-generation student of Indian descent. “I appreciate that because it’s nice to know that when I’m home, my parents aren’t blind to the election.”

Chauajn, who has voted in the past and plans to vote in the upcoming election, said she and her parents have relatively the same ideals, but their thoughts on education differ. She said her parents believe America’s education system is flawed and that they believe India’s system is much more efficient.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says that his immigration reform would include immediate construction of a physical wall between the U.S. and Mexico as well as mass deportation of current undocumented immigrants.

Being the children of immigrants, policies like these greatly affect first-generation students and their families.

“I want immigration laws to be revised,” said Brian Howyn, a first-generation Vietnamese student. “Trump’s build a wall idea isn’t even good. Immigrants are taking jobs where they get underpaid and they’re taking jobs that people don’t even think about working for.”

Though millennial voters make up 31 percent of the voting population, their strength in the polls has not reflected this. The PRC reported that only 46 percent of eligible millennial voters actually voted in 2012, which is down four percent from the numbers of the 2008 election.

“I feel like everyone should vote so that they can have their voice heard,” Howyn said. “If you never put your voice out to begin with, then you can’t really complain about whoever or whatever wins.”

In comparison to the 46 percent of eligible millennial voters actually voting, the baby boomer population of 69.7 million found 69 percent of their generation taking the initiative to vote, according to PRC.

“Being a first generation voter, I think it’s especially important for us because we’re voting on issues that are going to affect us in the future,” said Angie Yokoyama, a broadcast and electronic communication arts  major whose father immigrated from Malaysia. “Most of the population that’s voting, it’s not even their future. I think that’s important for first-generation voters to understand.”

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