The New Voters: Immigration and environment are personal

Odalys Lopez (Photo courtesy Odalys Lopez)
Odalys Lopez (Photo courtesy Odalys Lopez)

The Seattle Globalist will be featuring the stories of several first-time U.S. voters, asking them why this year has inspired them to register to vote.

When I ask first time voter Odalys Lopez if she’s excited about the elections she glumly shakes her head no. “I wanted Bernie to be the presidential candidate for the Democrats” she admits.

Despite the uncertain circumstances and an anxious election season, Odalys Lopez will cast her vote this Nov. 8 for the first time, along with a record 3.2 million U.S.-born Latino millennials.

This is Lopez’ first election. At 19, she’s a first-year student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, but originally from the rural eastern side of the state. She and a friend registered to vote when they came across a booth on campus.

Despite growing up in a conservative community, Lopez says she identifies between a liberal and a Democrat. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering millennials are the most progressive generation in years.

“If it has to be between (Donald) Trump and (Hillary) Clinton, I would obviously vote for Clinton,” she adds. “I got the voter pamphlet in the mail [though] and there are other options besides Trump and Clinton. There’s a write in section…”

I see her toy with the idea of voting outside the major party choices, but she trails off and brightens when the conversation returns to Bernie Sanders. Earlier this year in March, she attended his rally in Yakima with nearly 7,000 other people.

“He had the whole crowd going!” she remembers.

Lopez says the topics of greatest interest to her this election year are the environment and immigration policies. When I ask why she explains jokingly, “Because if we’re not taking care of the Earth, like then we’re not going to have an Earth to stay on.”

She also reveals that immigration is a personal issue as her family is undocumented. While she and her younger nephews are U.S. citizens, the Supreme Court ruling for DAPA/DACA+ has left immigrant families all over the nation in limbo.

When I ask Lopez if she believes a Clinton presidency will prioritize immigration reform she says, “I think she will. But I don’t know. All presidents say that they’ll do something and then they don’t go through with it.”

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