Maria Jose Rodriguez’s immigration status means she can’t vote in November’s election, but that hasn’t stopped her from mobilizing and advocating in her community.
Rodriguez, a 24-year-old DACA beneficiary, joined a group of canvassers in the City of Coachella on a Saturday morning, to make sure her voice is heard, even though it won’t be marked on the ballot.
“The demographic out here is largely undocumented, and a lot of us can’t vote,” said Rodriguez. “So, I want to advocate, you know, for undocumented people and, you know, specifically for people who are able to vote, they have that privilege, so they can vote with us in mind as well.”
Rodriguez was born in Michoacan, Mexico and brought into the United States when she was 4 years old. Her DACA status has allowed her to work and go to school. She is attending UC Riverside and pursuing a career in psychology.
Vanessa Moreno is also a DACA beneficiary and says not being able to vote and be part of the decisions that affect all Americans is not easy.
“It is frustrating because it’s that, you know, like paper, that just piece of paper that is preventing me from, you know, voting,” said Moreno. “I’m also hopeful that in the future, I will, I will vote. And I know that. But I know right now I’m not going to wait for that moment. I’m gonna do whatever it takes to make sure that other communities are voting.”
Moreno, a graduate of Cal State Fullerton in sociology, feels that the Trump administration has underestimated the power of silent voters like her.
“We have family members that can vote and oftentimes, sometimes they’re not so engaged. But we do the homework. You know, we’re the ones, like that want to push for that,” said 25-year-old Moreno.
The City of Coachella is a rural community with a population of almost 46,000, in which almost 98% is Latino, according to the U.S. Census.
Lesly Figueroa is running for Mayor of the City of Coachella in the upcoming election. Figueroa knows that the work that Rodriguez and Moreno are doing as volunteers in her campaign is critical in a city like Coachella.
“For Vanessa, for Maria Jose, who have been really supportive of my campaign. I think it means a lot to me for them to be so active and so, you know, wanting to make sure that other residents who can vote participate in their local democracy, said Figueroa. “The City of Coachella our voter turnout is really low, historically low, in all across the Coachella Valley, which I think puts us to say how why isn’t that residents aren’t voting.”
Moreno said now is the time to get out of the shadows and mobilize. She added that she hid her status for years, until she realized how important it was to help her community.
“I started to see the consequences and things that were impacting me personally. I decided that it was time to get out and I did that with the support of other communities, that have been in the front lines and can’t vote but have advocated,” said Moreno.
(Production: Sandra Stojanovic, Norma Galeana)