Tusla Gawli, political vice chairwoman of the Navajo Nation, raised her arm and rattled the metal bar for emphasis. “Everything takes time,” she said. “That’s what we’re learning.”
People from the United States, like her family, are already enjoying the benefits of being a member of a sovereign nation and vote on election day. “You have to be politically active to protect your interests and rights,” she said. But she’s hoping to change that perception.
Gawli talked about the process of voting at the San Felipe Village Branch Library in Tuba City, Arizona. It’s not a new idea, but some people didn’t think they would actually bother until 2018. When President Trump criticized Native American voter suppression in a recent tweet, more did.
They’ve made appointments for voters to vote in person on Nov. 6, and for those who don’t have transportation, they’ve brought them to town for free voter registration. There are several rallies and activities planned in the Navajo Nation this week to mobilize those eligible to vote.
In Navajo Nation territory, people who are eligible to vote in the general election must be registered by Oct. 18 and present proof of tribal residency to vote in the Navajo presidential and congressional races and four congressional and county seats. The Navajo Nation recognizes voters as a tribe when they prove the “Indigenous Ancestry and Tincture” — water from the country’s largest river, the Colorado River — has been used to create a person.
So far, it has been half a century since Navajos had an election; previous tribal elections were held for legislators and those overseeing government agencies. Indian schools have also not been in session since 1970.
Visiting Navajo voters this week in the community of Tuba City were patients from the Department of Veterans Affairs, who are busy with their election residency paperwork, as well as migrant farm workers who are looking for citizenship information.
For many, the midterm elections are a last chance to get to the ballot box before immigrants lose their citizenship.
On Tuesday, a federal judge issued a stay that prevents deportation of college students who were educated in the United States and may be deported after the Nov. 6 election.
The U.S. Congress hasn’t acted on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gave some young undocumented immigrants relief from deportation and work permits. The program may disappear before the November election, and President Trump has said he will end it.
If DACA is rescinded, some 300,000 immigrants could lose their citizenship and be deported, possibly to Mexico or other countries with poor human rights records.
For some migrants, one of the biggest concerns is getting their status in the U.S. resolved before leaving. For some, one of the biggest concerns is getting their status in the U.S. resolved before leaving.
Patti Cobbin, a school bus driver for Navajo students in Arizona, has a daughter in college studying to become a nurse and wants to vote for Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. In her family, undocumented immigrants have been able to vote for two generations; Cobbin’s parents were able to get their citizenship last year after they finally submitted the proper paperwork.
She worries that her family could soon be in danger of losing their status as Americans. “We’re losing our human rights. We’re losing our individual rights,” she said. “We have to voice our opinion now so that they hear us and make sure that we’re not voted out.”
Our next newsletter for Times readers will be published on Wednesday. It will feature Christine Schoneman on a nationwide trip to vote. If you’d like to join her on the trip, share your personal history, favorite destinations and/or memories of voting to bring us closer to the present election with your stories. Email: email@example.com