Strengthening Welcome for Immigrants Means Getting Out the Vote

Rev. Noel Andersen | October 30, 2014

Three new voters at the New American Pathways office in Atlanta. Courtesy New American Pathways. Photo: Courtesy New American Pathways

Three new voters at the New American Pathways office in Atlanta. Courtesy New American Pathways. Photo: Courtesy New American Pathways

It’s election season once again and while I am no fan of the partisan bickering or political pundits, this moment is an exciting opportunity to engage new people in the voting process. At CWS, we believe that voting is a critical component tobuilding welcoming communities – particularly as we accompany new citizens and new voters in voter registration, education and turnout.

One of the reasons I am so passionate about helping refugees become naturalized citizens and register to vote is because so many of our new neighbors come from heart-breaking circumstances of persecution. Corrupt governments have been able to instill fear in people and keep them from participating in civic society. As refugees begin new lives in the U.S., we have an incredible opportunity to help them learn about our civic system and embrace their right to vote as they become new citizens.

CWS is helping provide refugees the information and resources to naturalize, register to vote and become more active in exercising their duties as new citizens.  We find that when immigrants and refugees see that their vote counts, they become more involved in life of their communities, not only for themselves, but to enrich the greater community and help others along the same journey.

Over the past several months, we have seen incredible civic engagement work through CWS refugee resettlement offices and affiliates and through CWS member communions.

Let me share a few stories.

CWS Greensboro’s annual Mosaic Festival brought together 400 community members and registered 25 new citizen new voters in North Carolina. They are also helping to educate Nigerian and Bhutanese refugees and other communities on the U.S. voting process.

Refugee One in Illinois had over 500 refugees attend a World Refugee Day event and registered 35 new voters, while collecting letters from 100 individuals to Senator Mark Kirk asking him to support funding for refugees.

Stephanie Jackson Ali from New American Pathways in Atlanta said, “This is our first year doing voter registration and we are already witnessing the benefits for our clients and the wider community. We’ve helped register over 1,500 new voters in Georgia this year and are seeing refugees become more engaged on the issues in their new home country.”

CWS member communions have also been mobilizing their congregations to help educate their communities on the issues and Get Out the Vote with great resources like the United Church of Christ – Our Faith Our Vote, and the Presbyterian USA Office of Public Witness Pledge to Vote.

The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, American Baptist Churches USA and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have been making the news in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and more for their efforts to send “souls to the polls” and get people out early to vote (Resource for Souls to the Polls).

Congregations from the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ joined the Nuns on the Bus tour from NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby to encourage religious communities and civil society to make their votes count this Election Day.

Throughout the CWS network we are doing our part to register new voters, educate our constituency on the issues and promote the right to vote. Make sure your voice is heard this November 4thand volunteer to knock on doors, phone bank and offer rides to get people out and voting!

Rev. Noel Andersen is Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants’ Rights for CWS.