From Paperwork to the Polls: The Immigrant Experience Shows Voting is a Privilege


Diya Maheshwari/ The Birdfeed

Diya Maheshwari’s Parents, Sameer Maheshwari, and Priyanka Maheshwari after their naturalization process took place.

Diya Maheshwari, Lead Copy Editor

I am an immigrant. I was not born here, nor were my parents. As I grew up, I watched my parents as they worked through legal documents, took passport pictures and took yearly trips to VISA stamping centers. For most of my life, I thought that was normal for everyone.

As I grew older, I realized that it was in fact, not normal.

One memory that sticks with me the most was when I was learning about government and voting in school. Of course, like any kid, I went home and asked my parents if they had ever voted in a U.S. election. They said no. That was in 2015.

Six years later, we sit in a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office as my parents get their American Citizenship after 12 years of working and living here. I sat in the back of the oath room as I watched my parents get naturalized as United States citizens. That kind of moment sticks with you. I watched as my mom sadly renounced her Indian citizenship and my dad excitedly pledged to become an American.

It’s been a full year since they were naturalized, and the Midterm elections are coming up. When my parents say they’re headed to the polls, I look up at them with an odd sense of pride I could not place. Was it pride for my new country? Was it pride that my parent’s voices would be heard? No, it was something else.

I was proud of my parents.

I was proud of the people who stayed up late to fill out paperwork and took off from work to take passport pictures and get their documents stamped. I was proud of how far they had come. My parents thought their time here in the U.S. was limited, and here they are, voting in their first election, letting their voices be heard.

Seeing the “I voted” sticker on my parent’s shirts and hearing them excitedly describe the experience made me hopeful in an indescribable way. I was lucky enough to watch this milestone in my parent’s life, and I hope that everyone who has always been given this right understands that it is a privilege that cannot and should not be wasted.