It’s easy to get tired of politics, especially with elections every year here in Virginia. And it’s easy to get cynical, and to think that elections don’t really matter, that “all politicians are the same anyway.” But tonight, I sat in a room full of people for whom elections–one election in particular, that of Mark Herring for Attorney General in 2013–matter a whole lot. This was a room of immigrants, attending “DREAMers and Allies for Mark Herring,” in Arlington, Virginia, hosted by Delegate Alfonso Lopez. For them, Mark’s announcement in April 2014 that DREAMers (immigrants lawfully in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals–DACA program) can qualify for in-state tuition under Virginia law was life-changing.
Two of these DREAMers stood up to speak emotionally about how much this decision had meant to their lives. They described being in high school, and thinking they’d never be able to afford college, and then, thanks to this decision, being able to attend George Mason University, and being the first in their family to attend college. “I want to thank the Attorney General from the bottom of my heart, because you really have changed my life. I’m here today, standing, because of the efforts and the voice that you have and that you’ve chosen to speak out.”
As if I wasn’t already teary-eyed, Delegate Lopez then introduced Mark Herring by telling his own personal family stories. His mother was a high school guidance counselor at a local Arlington high school, and helped immigrant children graduate and thrive in school throughout her career, and his father immigrated from Venezuela at the age of 19 and slowly worked his way towards a college degree, one class at a time while working and raising his family.
Following politics is pretty exhausting these days. The news is full of ridiculous, awful stories. And sometimes it seems like it might be better just to stick our heads in the sand until this all blows away. But every single election, from the most local to the national, has real consequences for people. People suffer or thrive depending on the outcomes of these elections. If you aren’t already, please get involved. We have a governor to elect, a lieutenant governor, an attorney general to re-elect, and we have Delegates to elect, all over the state. Pick one (or more than one), visit their website, and sign up to volunteer. There are many ways to help. But please don’t just sit it out because you think it doesn’t matter.