A protester at Moral Monday march in Raleigh in 2016. (Image via Shutterstock) 'Undocumented Lives Matter'
A protester at Moral Monday march in Raleigh in 2016. (Image via Shutterstock)

A first-generation American and community college student tells us why immigrant rights and women’s rights drive her to the polls. 

As a first-generation American and the daughter of undocumented immigrants, women’s rights and immigrant rights are at the core of my values and what shapes my identity.

Never before have those two issues converged into such sharp focus than in the current humanitarian crisis happening under the watch, cover, and encouragement of the Trump administration.

When the whistleblower report about the conditions at an ICE detention center in Georgia surfaced, I felt sick to my stomach. Reading about the allegations of forced sterilizations of immigrant women, I thought about my mother, my best friend, my cousins, and so many others in the immigrant community who are undocumented or have DACA status.

It’s unthinkable that my loved ones’ freedoms and humanity could be so dismantled — and yet it’s happening to women right now, a few hours’ drive from my home in Charlotte.

My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when my mother was pregnant with me. What separates me and my sister from some of the women in ICE detention centers is nothing more than chance — a birthday, a border. What we have in common is so much greater, and we deserve a government that recognizes our shared humanity.

The author Carolina Caltzoncint-Herrera (center) campaigning in Charlotte in 2020.

The disturbing news about ICE’s practices seems to be a horrifying intersection of years of attacks on the civil liberties of immigrants and women. From the separation of children and families at the border and the threat to the DACA program to the appointment of ultra-conservative judges like Brett Kavanaugh, the Trump administration has spent four years fulfilling racist, anti-immigrant and anti-woman campaign promises and rhetoric.

And it will only get worse if Donald Trump is re-elected.  

Beyond the latest headlines, you don’t need to look far back to see how reproductive freedoms and immigrants’ rights have been threatened under the current White House agenda. In the summer Supreme Court session, my peers and I waited with bated breath for the results of two high profile cases about abortion access and the fate of the DACA program.

In both cases, I let out a sigh of relief when I read the headlines: Supreme Court Rules for DREAMers, Supreme Court Hands Abortion Rights Advocates A Victory.

When the court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to overturn DACA, I embraced my best friend, Alejandra. Her DACA status has been a constant source of uncertainty and stress since Trump took office, and though she can’t vote, she looks to the election in hopes that a Biden-Harris administration and Democratic-controlled Senate would enshrine permanent protections for Dreamers who know no other home but the United States.

When the court struck down rules that would restrict abortion access, I hugged my four-year-old sister, Victoria. My hope for her is that, as she grows, the constant questions about our power over our bodies become a political debate of the past.

These assaults on reproductive freedom, women’s rights, and immigrants are what led me to work with NextGen North Carolina to educate and mobilize young voters like myself. If my generation votes this fall in record numbers — like polls suggest we will — then we’ll defeat Donald Trump and all of the elected officials up and down the ballot who were supportive and complicit as he created a humanitarian crisis at the border and attacked our country’s  immigrant community.

As a fellow with NextGen, I make hundreds of calls to young voters every week and I talk to my classmates at Central Piedmont Community College about voter registration and voting by mail. During my conversations, I’ve heard so many of my peers echo my concerns about how the Republican platform couldn’t be further from our own values when it comes to reproductive rights, immigration policies, and a slew of other issues.

Many of my loved ones, like Alejandra and my parents, cannot vote. But I can — and so can millions of other young and first-time voters across the country, who together make up the largest voting bloc of the electorate. 

I’ll be mailing in my ballot this week, and I’ll be voting to defeat Donald Trump, flip the U.S. Senate, and to elect and re-elect local and state candidates down the ballot who believe, like me, in the rights of women, immigrants, and people of all backgrounds. I hope you’ll join me.

Carolina Caltzoncint-Herrera is a student at Central Piedmont Community College and a fellow with NextGen North Carolina, which is running the largest youth voter registration program in the state.