The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday March 25th

Newly naturalized citizens vote for the first time in Durham

Rosalinda Mondragon (left) stands with her daughters Zarah Grande (middle) and Crystal grande (right) as she gets ready to vote for her first time as a US citizen.
Buy Photos Rosalinda Mondragon (left) stands with her daughters Zarah Grande (middle) and Crystal grande (right) as she gets ready to vote for her first time as a US citizen.

Sijal Nasralla, community organizer for the Church World Service, organized the event to encourage new citizens to vote.

“Our vote not only counts more because we understand the value of citizenship, but it also counts more because we have the right to empower those people who do not have the means to gain citizenship,” he said.

Nasralla said he felt motivated to help recently naturalized citizens vote because he recalled the happiness his own father felt when he first voted.

“We are trying to shift the narrative of how refugees and immigrants have been represented during this election cycle,” he said. “America is often seen as a safe haven for these people and we want make sure our community continues that reputation of a warm welcome with integrity. My father was a refugee from Palestine who gained citizenship when I was about eight years old — it was a happy time for my family.”

Rosalinda Mondragon, a recently naturalized citizen from Mexico, voted for the first time on Sunday.

She has lived in the United States since 1989 and was granted citizenship in 2011.

“I am very excited to vote for the first time, because I’ve passed all of these challenges to be a citizen and my voice counts for many other immigrants no matter which party I vote for,” Mondragon said.

She said she was excited, but also a little confused by the voting process.

“There is a lot of publicity for the American people through the media, but I do not feel the publicity for the Hispanic people,” she said.

After voting, Mondragon said she felt much more confident about the voting process.

“I was nervous but everything was easy and now I am very happy,” she said.

Mondragon’s daughter, Crystal Grande, 19, said it meant a lot to her to see her mother vote. This was also Grande’s first time voting.

“My mom would work day and night and would always come back from work exhausted — the process for citizenship was a very long one,” Grande said.

Sufyan Abdullah, who is originally from Iraq, is not yet able to vote but attended the march to support the cause.

“I came to the United States in 2012 for the safety — I didn’t feel safe for my family or for my life,” he said. “This is a positive change for these new citizens — it is like they are newborns because this is a new beginning as they truly feel American now.”

Abdullah has one year left in the five-year residency requirement to apply for citizenship and said he hopes everyone recognizes the importance of voting.

“Your voice is your weapon, so don’t misuse it,” he said. “I hope everyone realizes the power of their voice that can be expressed through the right to vote.”



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