To the editor:

We are living in unpredictable times for our future and the future of our children, and it is time for immigrant voices to be heard.

Over the last six years, 5.3 million new citizens have been naturalized and are now eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, according to the National Partnership for New Americans. These numbers will fundamentally change the power and influence of immigrants. Newly naturalized citizens are an emerging voting block that is multicultural, multiracial, majority women, and diverse in age. Now that we’ve naturalized, we must VOTE!

Over the last two years, the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC) has developed partnerships with the League of Women Voters, Common Power, Avesta Housing, and immigrant-led groups to increase civic education and voter registration in immigrant communities. This year, a team is canvassing Avesta Housing properties across the state. We have also joined efforts with Gateway Community Services, Presente!Maine, and the Maine Youth Network to ensure we reach every eligible voter from young to old.

The importance of this year’s election requires us all to get involved. I call upon all immigrant community leaders and advocates to engage their respective communities and ensure every eligible voter is registered to vote and has information on how and where to vote. September 17 was World Citizenship Day, and the IWC organized a panel discussion on the importance of becoming a citizen and of voting. Some of our panelists were elected officials who are naturalized citizens, and their messages were inspiring and a call to action.

There are members of our community who need in-person support to vote. Perhaps they have mobility issues, language barriers, or their immune system means they must remain at home. If you would like assistance, please call and leave a message at 207-517-3401, or send an email to [email protected].

Damas Rugaba, Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center