COMMENTARY: Another year older, another year wiser, another year closer to voting

October 25, 2018 /


For my 16th birthday in September, I celebrated with other high school students from Delano at’s GOTV bootcamp in Los Angeles. I was excited to learn about ways we can encourage people younger than 18 years old to pre-register to vote. The whole event was a success. I was able to pre-register to vote, and now I’m looking forward to voting when I turn 18.

Because of that experience, I’ve been working to register and pre-register first-time voters. Even though I’m not a student at Delano High School, I helped Delano High students register and pre-register at the school’s homecoming football game. That night we registered more than a dozen students.

It is really important to get the youth to vote. We need to be aware of the candidate’s intentions. We need to be educated and vote for people who share and fight for our same values — values that address the many issues going on in our city, county, state, country and world.

Some people assume young people don’t care about politics, but that isn’t true. Politics matter to me. I’ve attended rallies and marches and learned about the issues that impact my family and I.

In September, I went to a rally in Bakersfield at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility. The organizers and attendees were rallying for family members in the detention center. One of the rally leaders asked if anyone wanted to speak. I went up there to express how I felt and why the rally meant so much to my family and I.

As I began to share my stories, I felt myself getting nervous and emotional.

Last year at Walmart, I experienced something uncomfortable that made me feel fearful for families like mine who are undocumented. My mom and I were checking out, and I heard someone say, “Build that wall.” I was in utter shock. My heart was pounding. My stomach dropped. I stood there stunned, not knowing whether to cry or to respond. I was too dismayed to say anything and left the store upset and shaken to my core.

For my last birthday, I told my parents all I wanted was go to SeaWorld. They looked at me with sorrow in their eyes. I didn’t understand why my parents were hesitant. It took me a little while, but eventually, I realized my parents were fearful of the checkpoints in San Diego. No parent should fear that one day their child will be taken away, and no child should ever experience getting a parent ripped away from their life.

But it happens. At school, I hear of other parents being deported. I was devastated when Santos Hilario and Marcelina Garcia died in a car crash in March after fleeing ICE agents on their way to work. For months after the tragedy, my family limited our trips outside the house as much as possible. We cut back on grocery shopping and were hesitant to answer the door if someone knocked.

I have a younger sister who is five years old. I’m in constant fear that one day she will wake up without my parents beside her — not knowing where they have gone or when they will return. I fear that my 12-year-old brother will not get to hug and kiss my parents every morning before he goes to school. I don’t want to witness my siblings go through such pain and confusion. I fear having to become my siblings second mother and not knowing how to fill that role. I fear losing my parents. What would that do to us? How would that change us? I hate imagining our lives without our parents, but I think about it anyway.

That’s why birthdays are so important to me now. They remind me of the sacrifices my parents made for me and my siblings.

Each year that passes, I’m closer to being able to exercise my right to vote. Voting is my way of bringing justice to parents and families who have experienced discrimination because they don’t have a piece of paper stating that they can be here “legally.”

Soon, my siblings and I will be the voice on the ballot that my parents don’t have access to. I do this for them. I do this for all the undocumented people in the United States who are here to work and provide a better life for their family.

Biviana Uribe, 16, is a junior at Cesar E. Chavez High School in Delano.