With two days to go until Election Day, community group Make the Road New York (MTRNY) took to the doorsteps of Queens and Staten Island on Sunday, Nov. 2 to make a final call for immigrant voters.
"Immigrants across the country are coming out in unprecedented numbers to demonstrate our intention to be fully integrated into the fabric and civic life of this country, and we’re doing it by engaging people in our communities around the issues that are important to our country, like immigration reform, healthcare and education," said Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of MTRNY.
Over 100 canvassers for MTRNY went door-to-door in Queens and Staten Island, placing brochures on door knobs to tell voters their polling place locations, assembly district, and electoral district. Their goal is to knock on 1,000 doors in Queens and 7,000 doors in Staten Island in the last two days before the elections.
Staten Island "is the frontier of immigration in New York City. Like the other boroughs 50 years ago, Staten Island has the fastest growing immigrant community in our city," said Archila.
MTRNY is a 4,000-member community-based immigrant advocacy group with offices in Queens and Brooklyn. So far, the campaign has reached over 20,000 immigrant voters in the city. One volunteer single-handedly registered over 4,000 new citizens at naturalization ceremonies.
"There have been hundreds of people who have spent hours and hours after work, in the evenings and on the weekends going to the doors of registered voters to talk about the concerns of immigrant families," said Archila. "Overwhelmingly, the number one concern for immigrant families is the need for immigration reform. Current immigration laws are undermining the ability of workers in this country to be paid a living wage, are separating families, causing deaths at the border."
Carlos Aguasasco voted for his first time this year. "In my family, voting was a waste of time," said Aguasasco. "People [in Colombia] don’t believe in democracy as we do in America. In Colombia, democracy just doesn’t work, period. But I voted, and still do."
Aguasasco said that although he didn’t grow up in a politically active family, he had faith in the democratic system. Aguasasco came from Colombia in 1999 and became a U.S. citizen in 2005. He registered to vote as soon as he became naturalized.
To entitled immigrants who may be skeptical that they have a say in the democratic system, Aguasasco urged them to exercise their right to vote. "Voting is as important as paying taxes," he said. "The independence of the United States was created under the premise that you could not tax anyone without giving them representation. Therefore, if you are a taxpayer, you should vote.
Sixty-two-year-old Colombian immigrant Yolanda Balacios is one of the canvassers for MTRNY. She will be voting for the first time in the United States this Tuesday.