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Arizona advocate pushes for voting and immigration reform

As Tania Lopez marched on Wednesday towards the White House alongside faith leaders from all over the country, she thought about her privileges as an immigrant who votes.  

Lopez, a Phoenix resident, traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of a gathering hosted by Faith in Action, a network of faith-based advocacy groups, to continue pressuring the Democratic-held Congress and Democratic president to expand voting rights and support for immigrants. 

“Our youth — their future is at risk,” she told the Arizona Mirror.

Lopez worries about voter suppression. She worries that younger generations have less access to the ballot box than she did when she voted for the first time in 2016 after becoming a citizen: “They have less rights in 2022 than they did when they were born.”

As Lopez marched for expanded federal protections on voting, Arizona legislators readied to consider measures that would limit early voting and impose restrictions on who can cast ballots. 

Lopez was born and raised in the Mexican state of Durango, and moved to the U.S. when she was a teen. Her mother was able to apply for citizenship, and when she did, she petitioned Lopez for naturalization. Immigrants who become American citizens can petition to have their relatives, often their parents or children (if they’re younger than 21), for permanent resident status, which has a pathway to citizenship. This process is part of the family-based migration policies that have been in place in the U.S. for decades. 

But Lopez knows this is a privilege that many immigrant families, who have made just as many sacrifices as her mother did, can’t access. 

“I was privileged, I was able to apply for citizenship,” she said. “Until (other immigrants) can’t, I feel I should carry the torch.”

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The organization were she is now a leader, Corazón Arizona, has been pushing the Biden administration and Arizona’s representatives in Congress to pass a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented residents.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Biden glossed over his immigration agenda, disappointing advocates nationwide who say he’s yet another Democrat in leadership who has failed to fulfill a campaign promise to implement reforms that allow millions of undocumented immigrants an opportunity to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. 

“Provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers, essential workers,” Biden said in his speech to Congress. “Revise our laws so businesses have workers they need and families don’t wait decades to reunite. It’s not only the right thing to do — it’s the economically smart thing to do.”

On Wednesday, immigrants and their advocates with United We Dream put up a banner outside the White House highlighting Biden’s continued deportations and expulsion of asylum seekers.

Earlier in the day, Lopez spoke at a rally before the march to the White House. She said it was powerful to see a diverse group, not just Latinos, chanting “Sí se puede!” It was moving to meet at the Black Lives Matter plaza and reflect on the lives lost after encounters with police. 

“It was kind of emotional, but it’s powerful,” Lopez said. “It’s a reminder that together we can do anything, and our communities are so much more powerful when we get together.”

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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Faith in Action

Faith leaders with Faith in Action lead a march on March 2, 2022, in Washington, D.C. to pressure President Joe Biden and the Democratic-majority Congress to expand voting rights and support for immigrants.