Being a Democrat without being able to vote
You might wonder why I would consider myself a Democrat if I can’t yet vote nor legally register as a member of a political party. To that I would tell you that my name is Cindy and as the daughter of Mexican immigrants, as a former DACA recipient and as a 1st generation college graduate I have been able to build strong support systems that have opened many doors for me. I knew that being undocumented and dreaming of studying politics and being politically involved would not be an easy task. However, along the way came the foundation of where it all began. My encounter with 2 NM State Senators by the names of Cynthia Nava and Michael Sanchez. One, the creator of the NM Lottery Scholarship Program and the other the woman who led the effort to open access that would allow Undocumented students to qualify for the scholarship. Two strong Democrats with firm values, big hearts and tough skin.
Spending countless days that turned into years as an unpaid intern at the NM Legislature taught me the ins and outs of the legislative system while juggling survival because of a immigration status that barred me from being paid. I sat and listened for a long time, I learned and carried my emotions with the respect and values my family instilled in me, even during the tough times when I sat through floor debates where members attacked and degraded immigrants and people just like me and my family. I learned that there was a clear distinction between those who believed in me and those who would not see me as equal.
I went on to see the clarity of my support systems and those who granted me opportunities to help me grow and go on to break boundaries and spaces that had not yet welcomed someone like me. I learned that the Democratic party was the party that would welcome me as a recipient of the National Federation of Women Rilla Moran Award, later as a DNC intern in Washington, DC and then as the first undocumented person to receive the NM Democratic Party rising star award.
I mention these because far beyond the recognition, these awards have created the starting of a pathway that people like me have not had before. The value goes to ensuring that we continue creating those pathways and opportunities for marginalized communities that go unseen and whose voices are not brought to the decision tables.
It is important to remember that being able to vote is a privilege not everyone gets to have and that unfortunately for some goes unnoticed. However, those who may not be able to cast a vote have vast power to mobilize, organize and lead folks to utilize that voting power in masses to ensure representation of their values is at the table.
All that to say that as I now wait for the not too distant day in which I get to become a U.S. Citizen, I look forward to the moment in which I will proudly register to vote as a Democrat and get to cast the first vote of my life.
Cindy Nava of Rio Rancho is a Policy Advocate and Political Operative currently serving as Political Director of People for Ben to elect Ben Ray Lujan as U.S. Senator for New Mexico.