The Voices of the Voteless

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Illustration by Anna McGrew.
Illustration by Anna McGrew.

*Last names have been withheld to protect the sources’ identities.

Over an estimated 100 million voters will head to the polls to cast their votes, but the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. won’t have that chance.

“Since I don’t have the right to vote, I cannot voice my opinion or the concerns that I have,” said UC Santa Cruz student Carlos*, who is undocumented. “So it puts me in a position where I’m struggling with what’s going to happen.”
Presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, have divisive stances on immigration policy.
“Knowing that one [candidate] supports immigration more than the other is kind of scary,” said Bryan*, a UCSC student who is also undocumented. “It’s a frightening situation for me and some of my family members.”
Bryan moved from Mexico to San Jose with his family when he was four years old and qualified for financial aid via the California Dream Act as a first generation college student.
The California Dream Act grants students, who immigrated under the age of 16 without a visa, access to financial aid benefits for universities. Candidates dispute over DREAMers, the term to describe the undocumented students.
“What’s on the line in the election is the ability of undocumented students at UCSC just to be here and to be able to support themselves so that they can succeed here,” said Pablo Reguerin, assistant vice provost for student success, who works with undocumented student organizations. “There are grave consequences in the election ­— the stakes are very high.”
In an election with a strong rhetoric on immigration, undocumented people in the U.S. could face major changes due to the outcome of the election. Donald Trump’s policies on deportation and immigration could replace what he considers to be non-enforcement policies put in place by President Barack Obama’s administration.
But Obama’s administration has deported significantly more people from the U.S. than any other president, ABC News reported.
Trump’s plan is to curb immigrants coming into the country and to first prioritize those with documentation.
This action would be especially felt in Santa Cruz. Last year, Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers conducted raids arresting five undocumented people in Watsonville and two in Capitola. Trump’s proposed plan would triple U.S. ICE officers and increase deportations nationwide, according to The New York Times.
According to Clinton’s campaign, “we are a nation of immigrants, and we treat those who come to our country with dignity and respect […] We embrace immigrants, not denigrate them.”
With drastic changes to immigration policy being proposed by both candidates, the future for undocumented students and the Dream Act are at risk.
Trump’s immigration stance causes concern for immigrants in the U.S., beyond the workings of the Dream Act. Even more serious, Trump has said on his first day in office he would deport every “criminal illegal immigrant.”
In contrast to Trump’s drastic plan on immigration, Clinton has proposed her own with DREAMers in mind.
“As a senator I was proud to co-sponsor the national DREAM Act and to vote for it,” said Clinton in a campaign speech in 2014. “I’m a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, and I believe that we have to fix our broken immigration system. We have to keep families together.”
Clinton plans to close family and private immigration detention centers. For the undocumented students and children this may give their parents a way to stay in the U.S.
While the Dream Act is a state law, immigration is a federal issue. The next president’s immigration policy will determine the future of the Dream Act.
Undocumented students like UCSC student Bryan are left in a bind, unsure about whether or not they can continue with their education or live in the country where they spent most of their lives.
“It’s not for sure whether or not the next president will support undocumented students,” Bryan said. “That leaves the underlying question of whether or not we will have an education in the following years to come.”
Even though undocumented students cannot vote, they can have an impact in another way, UCSC student Carlos said. Undocumented students can use activism or volunteer with campaigns as a platform to teach voters the potential consequences of immigration.
“There are undocumented students or other people who are undocumented, but they’re not bystanders,” Carlos said. “They try to put their voice out, they try to campaign, they try to do protests, they try to make people aware of what’s going on.”