As an immigrant and a former Cambodian refugee, I am dismayed by how often my fellow immigrants and former refugees told me that they are not registered to vote. “Leave it to the politicians” was the frequent view on the voting. Furthermore, there are registered voting immigrants who do not vote – squandered privileges.
Last December, my 10-year old son and I took a taxi to meet my wife and my 8-year old daughter at my community’s annual banquet. I have taught my son to appreciate his privileges as a born American. He has been following the 2008 election and developing some interest in exercising his voting right when he gets to be old enough to vote. Then here, the taxi driver was an immigrant from one of war-torn African countries. He and I had a great conversation until the subject of 2008 election came up. He went off on a conspiracy theory that each presidential election outcome has been predetermined by the “GOVERNMENT”. Trying to be a good American (and safeguard my son’s impression on this new revelation of the American voting system), I got into a less than pleasant discussion with the driver. At the end, I failed to convince him as he pointed out that people elected Al Gore, but the “GOVERNMENT” already decided to make George Bush the president.
Even though the taxi driver was an immigrant, I would not be surprised to hear a similar cynical view even from a non-immigrant. There are many good reasons and excuses to why people don’t vote. Nonetheless, I want to inspire all Americans (especially my fellow immigrants and former refugees) to vote.
The poor Mexican immigrants risk their lives across the south border of the U.S. in hope to become Americans. Like them, I and my fellow former Cambodian refugees risked our lives crossing the minefields and bullets to get out of Cambodia. Therefore, it is profoundly important for those of us who are Americans (naturalized or born) to honor our American voting privileges.
Let's help others register, let's register, and let's vote.
I would be proud to carry a sign in public that says: "Khmer Rouge genocide survivor, a registered American voter". Your sign may not be like mine as you are not likely a genocide survivor, but you get the idea.
To my fellow immigrants, I am asking you to leverage your past and difficult journey to lead and inspire all Americans to vote. Your voices and actions in the American election process are extremely crucial because when the world sees you in the U.S., the world sees the U.S. as a great nation, the land of the ultimate DIVERSITY.
Let’s make the world a better place, one registered voter at a time.
Let's help others register.
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