Without the right to vote, is there a point to following the elections?
For refugee Martha Tong, 40, who cannot vote in the U.S., there would be—if she had more time.
Tong has lived on Buffalo’s west side since 2001, when she left South Sudan. She’s studying to take the test to become a U.S citizen, in part so that she can have the right to vote in the next presidential election.
“In South Sudan our political structure is really bad. We don’t have a good leader and there is no election. Our president controls everything and we have no say,” Tong said.
Raising five children and running Marvelous Martha’s Cleaning Service keeps Tong very busy, so she hasn’t followed the current American election as much as she’d like to.
“My kids follow the election, and my friends talk about it—how Donald Trump doesn’t like African people being here and wants to send us back home. I’m scared, because if he becomes president, what if he sends us back?” Tong said, whose children and friends do not support Trump.
She misses family members who still live in South Sudan, but she doesn’t miss the civil war and the fighting she was able to leave behind. “We’re lucky to be here. We have food in the fridge, we’re sleeping in nice beds, and my kids get to go to school,” Tong said. “We love the U.S. because we have a lot of opportunities. We really appreciate being here.”
At Buffalo State College, there are international students who come from countries with very different systems of government. And although they do not have the right to vote in our country, some of these students are following the election very closely. Here are some international student opinions on competing presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton:
Sophomore Fadly Cherif, 21, came to Buffalo from Guinea, West Africa to pursue her education as a political science major. She’s here on an F-1 student visa, is not a citizen and cannot vote.
“As a Muslim in this country I think this election is terrifying,” Cherif said. “If Trump wins I’m scared he’ll deport me. He has wild policies. A lot of students feel disheartened—like they don’t really have a choice in this election…so they’re choosing not to vote. There are many Republican students in my classes who don’t know what to do. They’re confused.”
Although Cherif doesn’t think Hillary is a great candidate and has been shady, if she did have the right to vote in the U.S., she said she’d definitely vote for Hillary over Trump.
Sophomore and international business major Vaibhav Sharma, 20, feels the same way as Cherif does. Sharma came to Buffalo from New Delhi, India and is the president of International Students Organization, as well as the vice chairman of the International Student Advisory Council at Buffalo State.
“This election is crazy. Coming from another country, international students have a very nice image of the U.S.—and that includes the idea that it’s not a racist country,” Sharma said. He is as frightened about some of Trump’s statements regarding non-citizens living in this country as Cherif is. “Donald Trump makes no sense to me, or to many other students. If Hillary wins, I will stay in the U.S. If Trump wins I have serious plans to apply to universities in Canada and Europe.”
Instead of being kicked out, he said, he’d rather leave on his own terms. “I wish I could vote. I’d vote for Hillary,” Sharma said. K
Katie Coleman, a freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to Karibu News.