Your vote for Hillary Clinton will keep me and my family together.
Vishal is a son, brother, friend, student, advocate, Hillary for Wisconsin’s Digital Organizer, and — an undocumented immigrant. Take a few moments to read his powerful story — it underlines the gravity of a voter’s decision at the polls.
During election season, we’re bombarded with news stories and ads about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We hear about each of their plans on important issues — and they can be hard to understand. What’s even harder to comprehend is the gravity of our voting decision and how it impacts people we interact with every day — people like me, who are undocumented in this country.
My story begins in the Philippines. When I was three my younger sister was born with Down Syndrome and a rare heart defect that resulted in a severe lack of oxygenated blood in her body. A simple task like walking would turn her skin a tint of blue.
The doctors in the Philippines were only able to temporarily treat my sister. Our only viable option to help her was to seek care in the United States. So our adventure began — and when I was six years old, my family packed our bags and flew to the U.S.
We moved to Chicago in 2001 and my parents immediately began searching for treatment options. It became apparent that the duration of this process would exceed our one year visa. Acting fast, they exhaustively explored options to become permanent residents, but there was no opportunity to do so.
My parents were faced with a decision. The first option was to go back to the Philippines or India, where our family had an established life. If we went down that road, however, my sister would continue to be sick. The other option was to live as undocumented immigrants in America, so that my sister could get the treatment she so desperately needed to survive. If we wanted my sister to have a better life, there was no other option. My parents decided that we would all stay in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. Their decision improved my sister’s quality of life — in 2003, my sister had her life saving heart surgery.
I found out that I was an undocumented immigrant when I was in high school.
Immediately, I started seeing the world differently. I always wondered why we never visited our family back in India. After finding out about my status, I realized that if we left, we could never come back to this country — our home. The only contact we were able to maintain with our family in India was through phone calls. We live in a world today where not even large oceans can separate families, but the lack of a document can.
Even though I was disheartened by my status, I thought that if I worked hard enough, got into a great college, and showed that I could impact America positively, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I took all honors and Advanced Placement classes, participated in extracurriculars, and volunteered regularly with my church.
When I was a senior in high school, I received my DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). DACA is an executive action on immigration signed by President Obama which defers undocumented youth from deportation and allows them to obtain an Employment Authorization Document.
Out of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, only about 665,000 have obtained it. Unfortunately, this was a temporary fix — it has to be renewed every two years and the next president has the power to take it away.
When I found out that I was accepted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I was sitting in the hospital at my father’s bed. He had just suffered a major heart attack and was recovering. My family was concerned about how we were going to pay for my college tuition. In Illinois and most other states, undocumented students are not eligible for financial aid.
However, with our faith, his determination, and the doctors’ care, my father recovered and went back to work a few months later. My dad pushed his body to the physical limits to make sure I could afford college. If it weren’t for my father’s tenacity, I would absolutely not be able to attend the University of Illinois today. And if it weren’t for DACA, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my passion and intern in the tech industry.
In college, I met other undocumented students and worked with them and allies to organize across the state to pass legislation to provide financial aid for undocumented students. We passed the bill in the state senate and it’s still being pushed in the state house. While this push was happening, President Obama’s new immigration executive actions, called DAPA/DACA+, were tried in the Supreme Court.
I joined other undocumented immigrants from across the country in submitting a briefing to the Supreme Court on the benefits of DACA. The decision ended in a tie, effectively destroying the hopes and dreams of five million undocumented immigrants who would’ve been shielded from deportation with the executive action.
Shortly after this decision, Donald Trump officially became the Republican nominee for president at the Republican National Convention — solidifying the fact that he is one step closer to the White House and carrying out his mass deportation plan of all 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.
Then, Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee for president — and committed to passing immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and upholding President Obama’s executive actions on DACA and the struck down DAPA/DACA+.
I knew that I couldn’t sit on the sidelines.
I packed my bags and joined the campaign in Wisconsin as a Digital Organizer. Every day, I help recruit volunteers, train organizers, and get out the vote. I don’t take one minute for granted — because I know the impact this election can have on people across this country. I’m one of them. I’m working hard to ensure that my family and I won’t be torn apart from the country I call my home. My team and I are fighting for progress every single day.
I gave a promise at the beginning of this story that I would aim to make your decision to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump a lot easier after reading this — and here is my conclusion:
Your vote for Hillary Clinton will keep me and my family together. Your vote for Hillary Clinton will keep millions of families together. Your vote for Hillary Clinton will prevent 11 million undocumented immigrants from being torn apart from their home. Your vote for Hillary Clinton will help my dreams, and 11 million others, come true. Your vote for Hillary Clinton will ensure that one day, we will have the right to vote in our country. Your vote for Hillary Clinton will tell us that we matter and that we belong.