We can make a difference: Immigrant votes matter

By Dusan Palka

Natural-born American citizens often do not realize how endless the process of legal immigration can be and how bureaucratic and inefficient it is unless they are faced with it themselves.

Immigration reform matters to everyone who has had to deal with this bizarre, awkward, obscure and expensive process. And the way to change the process in this democratic society is to elect people who will work to change the process and the system.

We immigrants and our families must champion the issue of immigration reform. The American electoral system offers us, as citizens, a unique chance to do something about this: ask your elected representatives about their approaches and ideas related to the process. Ask them if they are willing to change it, to make the process better, easier and cheaper. Then, we must vote based on their answers.

Another aspect of the American political system is that local politicians can eventually end up in national politics. Become familiar with these people—call their office, attend a community meeting, or write them an email or a letter—so you can make educated decisions about them during the election. They work for you.

I’ve noticed that many immigrants happily forget about the broken system once they get their green card or eventually become a citizen… we’re only reminded of it if we need to bring a relative or a spouse from abroad, or, as in my case, if we have to spend an extended period abroad and reapply ourselves. Thus, I have been through this process twice in 17 years; the second time, it was much more cumbersome and weird.

Yes, the initial process is a terrible experience. It hardly gets better when you finally make it to your port of arrival or at every re-entry when you travel abroad with a green card. We are treated as a big group of suspects: this is unacceptable.

Laws in this country are made by Congress—including immigration laws. The laws are then signed by the President and, in the case of immigration law, upheld by the Department of Homeland Security. All laws are funded from your taxes. When Congress votes to reduce spending on Homeland Security yet again in their next appropriations bill, those cuts will delay legal immigration processes.

The U.S. immigration process will never change for the better if we do not continue to work for it. In many cases, immigrants are dispersed and marginalized. And, as we become assimilated, this issue can fade in its immediacy to us.

I urge you to realize that we can be a strong voting block! The issue of immigration reform is unique and important to us; it is worth it to make an effort to vote. Being a member of the American electorate makes you part of the biggest and strongest “special interest group” in this country.

If you went all the way though this process and achieved the ultimate goal of an immigrant—citizenship—and you got your right to vote, use it. Once I am a citizen in 2018, they will never be able to stop me from voting. Go vote!  K

Dusan Palka, a native of the Czech Republic, has been in the U.S. for a total of 13 years. This article is an excerpt. To read the full article, visit

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