clearn.png
Sunday September 19th, 2021 1:41AM

New US citizen refugees excited for first presidential vote

By The Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — They came fleeing war and persecution in countries like Myanmar, Eritrea and Iraq, handpicked by the United States for resettlement under longstanding humanitarian traditions.

Now, tens of thousands of refugees welcomed into the U.S. during the Obama administration are American citizens, voting the first time in what could be the most consequential presidential contest of their lifetimes.

With some states already sending out early ballots, the first-time voters from Arizona to Florida are excited but mindful of their responsibility in helping to choose the country's next leader. The winner will decide the future of the very resettlement program they benefitted from and that President Donald Trump has hollowed out and could halt altogether in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

“Most refugees come to this county escaping political systems where the government is not their friend,” said Hans Van de Weerd, vice president of resettlement for the International Rescue Committee, a top agency that brings refugees to the U.S. “To have their voices be heard is very powerful.”

Republican and Democratic administrations resettled an average 95,000 refugees annually over four decades, but the Trump government whittled that down to a cap of 18,000. Only about half that number have come in this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That downward trend seems likely to continue if Trump is reelected; his Democratic challenger Joe Biden has promised to pump the annual refugee goal to 125,000.

There are no voter registration figures for refugees, but the National Partnership for New Americans predicted that 860,000 immigrants of all kinds would gain that right this year by becoming citizens even in the face of barriers like an 83% increase in naturalization fees, from $640 to $1,170.

Through its citizenship classes, the International Rescue Committee has helped around 6,000 refugees and other newcomers become Americans each of the last few years. Other groups have also helped refugees become naturalized.

Department of Homeland Security figures in recent years have shown refugees and asylum-seekers are the immigrants most likely to gain citizenship, with a naturalization rate of over 70% during their first decade in the country. Refugees can apply for citizenship after five years as permanent residents.

Once they become Americans, they can register and vote.

“So many want to vote this time,” said Basma Alawee, a refugee herself and an organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition who has been holding webinars helping other refugees prepare for Election Day.

Born in Iraq and now a U.S. citizen living in Jacksonville, Florida, Alawee said she also plans to cast her first presidential ballot Nov. 3.

Here are a few other refugees around the United States voting for the first time:

BILAL ALOBAIDI recalls elections in Iraq under Saddam Hussein when only the leader’s name was on the ballot. The only possible choices were “yes” or “no.”

“And if you said ‘no,’ something bad could happen to you,” said Alobaidi, who arrived in the U.S. in December 2013.

He was resettled in Phoenix, a desert city with sweltering weather like that of his hometown Mosul, and was naturalized last year.

A former social worker with the International Organization for Migration, Alobaidi now works for the International Rescue Committee, helping other refugees in Arizona find housing and other services.

Alobaidi said he looks forward to voting for the candidate he chooses.

“This is the first time I will practice democracy,” he said. “I can't wait.”

___

BAWI UK was a small child when his parents fled Myanmar, leaving him and his siblings to be cared for by their maternal grandmother.

UK said the family suffered discrimination as Christians in a predominantly Buddhist nation. The military government was also trying to forcibly conscript his father.

“To run for office, you had to be a Buddhist; to rent a house, you had to be Buddhist,” said UK, a social work student at Rhode Island College and a youth leader at the Refugee Dream Center, an advocacy organization in Providence.

___

NADA AL-RUBAYE said she never voted in her native Iraq, which she fled after her oldest son and several other family members were killed in the country's widespread violence.

The Baghdad-born artist and another son spent a few years in Turkey, but in 2013 were settled in Phoenix.

A U.S. citizen since September 2019, she now paints landscapes featuring the red rock outcroppings of her adopted Arizona and sells her paintings and jewelry online.

“I am so excited!" she said about the upcoming election, flashing a broad smile. “It’s so important for a person to feel like they belong to a country.”

___

HABTOM GEZHEY fled Eritrea after being conscripted to serve an indefinite number of years in the military.

Gezhey initially lived in a refugee camp in neighboring Ethiopia before being resettled in Florida in 2012.

Now a truck driver hauling goods across the U.S., Gezhey lives in Jacksonville with his wife, Eyerusalem, whom he met at the camp, and their two young children.

“I’m ready to vote,” said Gezhey. “We had no election in Eritrea, no Constitution."

___

JAD “JAY” JAWAD was 17 when his family sought refuge in the U.S. from death threats and conflict in Iraq.

The Saddam Hussein government had targeted Jawad's father as a manager at a hotel frequented by the U.S. military. The family resettled in Phoenix, where they all became U.S. citizens.

Jawad now runs a popular crepe restaurant in an upscale mall. He and his wife, also an American citizen born in Iraq, are expecting a baby next spring.

“When we left Baghdad, there was no democracy,” he said. “Here, you can be part of the change.”

___

LIAN KUAL never cast a ballot in Myanmar, where elections were criticized as fraudulent during decades of military rule.

In 2008, Kual initially fled his country for Malaysia, and in 2014 was resettled in Salt Lake City, where he works on the overnight shift stocking shelves at Walmart. He was naturalized this year.

“I feel so free to be part of the United States of America,” he said. “I already registered (to vote) at the DMV, and now I'm waiting for my ballot. It's a really big deal.”

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Elections - Political Conventions
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Lawyer says officer thought Blake was trying to kidnap child
The lawyer for the Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back says his client told investigators he thought Blake was trying to abduct one of his own children
6:14PM ( 10 hours ago )
Joe Biden: Vacancy about health law, not court expansion
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says the GOP's push for a speedy Supreme Court confirmation is really an effort to overturn the 2010 health care law
6:10PM ( 11 hours ago )
Lockdowns are fading, but GOP outrage isn't in campaigns
It's not just Democrats who want voters thinking about the pandemic on Election Day
5:13PM ( 11 hours ago )
U.S. News
Asia Today: Australian hot spot, South Korea hit new lows
Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, Victoria state, has recorded its lowest number of new infections in more than three months as the nation’s second-largest city, Melbourne, further eased its lockdown restrictions
4:39AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Global shares up ahead of China holiday, Trump-Biden debate
Global shares are mostly higher ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate and a national holiday in China later in the week
4:33AM ( 39 minutes ago )
Despite virus-related obstacles, baseball reaches postseason
The 2020 baseball season began with Juan Soto testing positive for COVID-19
3:15AM ( 1 hour ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Pandemic overwhelms Trump's message in critical N. Carolina
President Donald Trump’s push to inject new dynamics into the final weeks of the 2020 election is being overshadowed by the frightening realities of everyday life in the pandemic
1:41AM ( 3 hours ago )
Trump's tax revelation could tarnish image that fueled rise
The bombshell revelations that President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office and paid no income taxes at all in many others threaten to undercut a pillar of his appeal among blue-collar voters
12:57AM ( 4 hours ago )
NY Times: Trump paid $750 in US income taxes in 2016, 2017
President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for president and in his first year in the White House
12:52AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP National News
Asia shares up ahead of China holiday, presidential debate
Asian shares are higher ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate and a national holiday in China later in the week
12:03AM ( 5 hours ago )
Trump ex-campaign boss hospitalized amid threat to harm self
Florida police and campaign officials say President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale has been hospitalized after he threatened to harm himself
10:14PM ( 6 hours ago )
Federal judge postpones Trump ban on popular app TikTok
A federal judge on Sunday postponed a Trump administration order that would have banned the popular video sharing app TikTok from U.S. smartphone app stores around midnight
8:41PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Elections
Tribes see ballot collection as a lifeline in Indian Country
Tribes see ballot collection as a critical way to boost historically low Native American turnout, but it's become a flashpoint in the November election
11:18AM ( 17 hours ago )
Romania's municipal election seen as test for December vote
Voters in Romania are casting ballots in municipal elections, which are being viewed as a test of how the next general election on Dec. 6 will unfold for the country’s minority-led government
8:38AM ( 20 hours ago )
AP Explains: What's next for Trump's Supreme Court pick?
President Donald Trump has chosen Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sending the nomination to the Senate with hopes of a quick confirmation fewer than 40 days before the presidential election
12:17AM ( 1 day ago )
General Election News
How it happened: From law professor to high court in 4 years
Four years ago, Amy Coney Barrett was a little-known law professor in Indiana
11:25AM ( 17 hours ago )
On guns, abortion, high court could become more conservative
If Congress confirms President Donald Trump’s nominee to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court would become more conservative and also perhaps more ready to tackle certain hot-button issues like abortion and guns
8:59AM ( 20 hours ago )
Macron's party faces struggle in French Senate elections
Nearly half of France’s Senate seats are up for grabs Sunday in an election that is likely to leave the chamber dominated by conservatives and serve a new electoral blow to President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party
7:17AM ( 21 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
GOP expecting Trump to tap Barrett for Supreme Court
Republicans are expecting President Donald Trump to announce Saturday that he is nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, as he aims to put a historic stamp on the high court just weeks before the election
6:33PM ( 2 days ago )
Trump promotes health care 'vision' but gaps remain
More than three-and-a-half years into his presidency and 40 days from an election, President Donald Trump is launching what aides term a “vision” for health care heavy on unfulfilled aspirations
9:38PM ( 3 days ago )
Progressives pledge to keep pushing Biden to expand court
Since Joe Biden ran away with the Democratic presidential nomination in March, leading progressives have accepted him — sometimes grudgingly — as their party’s leader
9:19PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Elections - Political Conventions
Lawyer says officer thought Blake was trying to kidnap child
The lawyer for the Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back says his client told investigators he thought Blake was trying to abduct one of his own children
6:14PM ( 10 hours ago )
Joe Biden: Vacancy about health law, not court expansion
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says the GOP's push for a speedy Supreme Court confirmation is really an effort to overturn the 2010 health care law
6:10PM ( 11 hours ago )
Lockdowns are fading, but GOP outrage isn't in campaigns
It's not just Democrats who want voters thinking about the pandemic on Election Day
5:13PM ( 11 hours ago )
Joe Montana, wife block attempted kidnapping of grandchild
Authorities say Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and his wife confronted a home intruder who attempted to kidnap their grandchild over the weekend in California
5:09PM ( 12 hours ago )
Biden to Democrats: Focus on health law, not court expansion
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says the GOP's push for a speedy Supreme Court confirmation is really an effort to overturn the 2010 health care law
4:02PM ( 13 hours ago )