The following post is submitted by Joseph Schuster, HRC Colorado's Political & Community Outreach Co-Chair:
I arrived at the site for the Ya Es Hora citizenship workshop at about 8:00am this past Saturday. I was tired, sore from the strenuous hike that I had done the previous day with some out-of-town friends, I was not convinced I was at the right location, and I was nervous about how many volunteers were going to show up to volunteer. I co-chair the political and community outreach committee along with Sarah April for HRC Colorado, and it was our first time partnering with Ya Es Hora.
Ya Es Hora is a program in which national organizations, local organizations, and volunteers come together to help individuals become U.S. citizens, and thereby full participants of our democracy. We as HRC were very lucky to partner with Mi Familia Vota and other great organizations. When I first heard about Ya Es Hora a few months ago, I thought about how perfect it would be for the HRC members in Colorado to get involved in this amazing program! Ya Es Hora allows us to help people apply for U.S. citizenship and increase voter participation. It's also a fabulous opportunity to increase visibility of LGBT people and allies within the Latino community and raise awareness of HRC’s mission in this community. Nationally, polls show that a majority of Latinos are in favor of equality.
Ya Es Hora seemed to be a natural fit for HRC Colorado, yet I was still nervous: who knows if we would have enough volunteers; I haven’t used my Spanish in years, and even then it wasn’t perfect; and I’ve never filled out naturalization forms. I brought my boyfriend, and my two out-of-town guests—that way I knew we would at the very least have three volunteers! By 8:30am, my fears were starting to subside, we had approximately 20 HRC volunteers, everyone was wearing HRC T-shirts, and everyone was ready to volunteer. We spent the next 90 minutes learning how to fill out naturalization paperwork. My goodness there was a lot to learn! Then we sat down at tables and were ready to help people apply to become U.S. Citizens.
Lucky for me, some of the people that arrived wanted to speak English as they filled out their forms, so I worked with those individuals—I eventually worked with someone that spoke little English, and even with my limited Spanish we made it work! People were so excited to become U.S. Citizens, and were saying how awesome it was that we were giving up our Saturday to help them—I was even able to talk to several people about why HRC members were here volunteering. It was so exciting to see these people on their way to becoming voting members of society!
After we were done, we all had the same reaction—we couldn’t believe how difficult the process was for someone to become a U.S. Citizen. These people were going through an excruciating process to obtain U.S. Citizenship, something that we never really thought about—had taken for granted our whole lives.
The right to vote, the right to participate in our political process, how very important, and how great to be reminded of the importance of this right. These are the rights we will use to obtain LGBT equality! Thank you, HRC and Ya Es Hora for this amazing event! Never take for granted the right to vote.