How much do you cherish your voting rights? Would you travel to another country to secure free elections? Would you seek citizenship in a foreign land so that you had a say in the governance of your child’s school?

Puente, the incredible social services agency that helps South Coast residents with food when they are hungry, with employment for those out of work, or with housing after a devastating fire, recently celebrated three local green card holders it shepherded through the citizenship process. It helped with the applications, then with study materials for the civics test, even connecting the applicants with volunteer tutors.

It says all three new citizens were born in Mexico and are parents who have lived on the coast for more than a decade. Puente says all three are interested in politics and motivated to vote. 

One of the new South Coast citizens, a woman in her 40s who has been living in Pescadero for nearly three decades, told Puente she was motivated to overcome her fear of the civics test because she wanted desperately to vote, a right American citizens in her own family often neglected. Puente Community Development Director Corina Rodriguez said a man who recently passed the test was particularly interested in voting in the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District board race.

All of this is more than a job for Rodriguez. Her own mother came to this country in the 1980s, before Corina was born, and got a green card through an immigration reform bill signed by President Ronald Reagan. She remembers the whole family helping her mother study for the 100-question citizenship test. Her mother now works for the South Coast school district and enjoys a vote in school board elections.

In a post on the Puente website, Rodriguez says she is grateful for her mother’s example and the welcome her family received. “It’s like they knew somehow that coming to the U.S. is what would be best for their family in the future,” she said. “I’ve never had to go through anything like that.”

Immigration officials say that this year the U.S. is on pace to add more than the 855,000 new citizens it welcomed in 2021. While 9 million immigrants are eligible for citizenship, fewer than a million apply each year. Each new citizen strengthens the nation as a whole.

San Mateo County has finished counting ballots in the Nov. 8 election, and will certify those results next week. Only 58 percent of eligible voters bothered this time around. Obviously, many of us have long since taken for granted our right to vote and the democratic process that for generations was a model the world over. But not all of us. Not the immigrants.

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