Mexican and American and voting
on November 1, 2010
Twenty-year-old Bianca Rojo doesn’t take voting lightly. Five years ago, immigration authorities deported her parents to Mexico because they were in the U.S. illegally. Rojo’s parents took her two younger brothers with them.
“I hate seeing families separated by a broken immigration system,” Rojo said. “It’s affecting a lot of children that are U.S. citizens. My life has been changed dramatically.”
Rojo, a U.S. citizen and Richmond resident, believes the only lasting way to keep families like hers together is for Latinos in the U.S. to become more politically active.
Now a third-year criminal justice student at San Francisco State University, Rojo works as an intern at a law firm. Her goal is to become an immigration attorney. Between school and work, she organizes voter registration events with the San Francisco Immigration Reform Coalition.
“It’s important for me to show the Latino community that their vote does count,” Rojo said. “My brother, Ignacio, just turned 18 and it will be his first time voting in this upcoming election. I want to show him it’s not just adults voting—all votes count.”
Rojo says one reason Latinos typically don’t register to vote is that they feel their vote won’t make a difference—there are so many people against immigration reform that it’s intimidating.
Another reason, she says, is that some Latinos feel political parties are all the same and that no matter who they vote for political policies don’t change.
On a recent trip to Arizona to register Latino voters, Rojo encountered many voters angry about Senate Bill 1070, which requires immigrants to have registration documents in their possession at all times. Rojo says the bill gives the police in Arizona the opportunity to stop someone if they look like an immigrant.
“I personally can’t tell anyone who or what to vote for,” Rojo said. “But Arizona can influence other states, so this election is very important.”
While in Arizona, Rojo says she was called mean names and told repeatedly to go back to her country.
“Where is my country?” Rojo said. “I am in my country.”
“As a Latino growing up, even when you’re young, people treat you like an undocumented,” said Rojo. “Just because of the color of my skin people would follow me inside a store to see what I’m doing. So I always keep my hands to myself to show them I’m not going to steal.”
Rojo says that during her parents’ time in Richmond, they always lived with doubt and fear: There was always a chance that the police would stop them, cite them, and give them an order of deportation.
“I hear a lot of people say undocumented immigrants are taking our jobs,” Rojo said. “But these are jobs people don’t want. Who would want to be a dishwasher, janitor, or plumber working from 1 a.m. until nine in the morning?”
Rojo says her father worked at Pier 39 in San Francisco from 10 p.m. until five in the morning steam cleaning the area where the seals lay, and her mother worked at a day care center.
“These people are helping our economy,” Rojo said. “But they’re portrayed as stealing jobs.”
This year, Rojo has saved enough money to buy her two brothers, age 14 and six, plane tickets to visit her for two weeks during the holidays.
“They keep saying ‘We’re going to El Norte! El Norte!’” Rojo says.
Rojo’s determination to unite her family doesn’t stop there. Next August, when she turns 21, she plans to sponsor her parents’ return to the United States—legally.
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