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Election Immigration

New U.S. citizen watches others vote, hopeful for next election

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As more than 220,000 El Pasoans went to vote early in recent weeks, one woman had to sit on the sidelines. 

Martha, a Mexican immigrant in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship, could not vote this election cycle because her naturalization came weeks after Texas’ voter registration deadline. She went out to the polls during early voting so that her mother, a U.S. citizen, could vote. 

“In that moment it was like, ‘Uff, I was almost here myself,’ but well, it is what it is. It wasn’t my turn this time around,” said Martha, who asked that her last name not be used because she fears repercussions for speaking out. 

Martha was in the final steps this summer of completing her citizenship requirements.

During that time, she feared a potential furlough of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees would delay her application process. She was hoping to earn her citizenship in time to register to vote in the 2020 presidential elections. The Oct. 5 voter registration deadline for Texas came and went with no update from USCIS. 

Martha was notified she was approved for citizenship Oct. 19, two weeks after the voter registration deadline. 

Nevertheless she was ecstatic once she received her citizenship. 

Martha talks, in Spanish, about learning she had met U.S. citizenship requirements.

“I opened the card and, well, all the letters are so small and I’m trying to find where it says it,” Martha said. “I’m reading it and then it said ‘come by to pick up your citizenship certification’ and I just went ‘Ahhh!’ I ran inside and I screamed and screamed, and then I cried and cried. And, well, of course I also gave thanks to God.”

Her attorney Linda Rivas, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, said the news was bittersweet. 

“Martha came to Las Americas filled with hope to become a citizen and have the opportunity to vote in this election. We are still celebrating, despite a pandemic and several changes to immigration over the years, Martha made it! Las Americas will keep on fighting, and helping people realize their dreams in this country,” Rivas said. 

Despite not being able to vote this cycle, Martha said she’s already looking forward to the next elections in two years. 

“This time I wasn’t able to, but for the next one, God willing,” Martha said. “Regardless, I’m very excited because I have my citizenship. Things are completely different now!” 

For everyone else who does have the ability to vote, Martha has one final message ahead of Election Day. 

“Vote for the best candidate, vote for a better future, vote for a better country.”

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Claudia Tristán

Claudia Tristán previously worked as a television reporter for five years across Western Texas and New Mexico. She has experience in both English and Spanish television news. As a journalist, Tristán was most recently covered immigration in El Paso. Tristán left journalism to work in government and on political campaigns. She joined the office of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Later she worked on Beto O'Rourke's presidential campaign before joining Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's reelection campaign. Tristán has centered her journalism career around immigration and politics to better keep communities informed.

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