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In Arizona, the polls closed three hours ago, and the results are coming in. While cable news networks have been pulsating all evening with the preemptive punditry we have grown to expect, CNN is projecting another term for President Obama with 274 electoral votes at 9:45PM Mountain Standard Time, and John King, wizard of  the interactive electoral map has just told viewers to  “warm up the fat lady.” At the same time, our country remains divided, with Romney currently leading in the popular vote by a couple of hundred votes.

It appears Mitt Romney is not yet ready to deliver a concession speech, refusing to concede Ohio.  I am not interested in what Mr. Romney has to say tonight. I’ve heard enough over the last two years, and at the same time not barely enough from him on those matters that matter most to me as an immigrant who believes America is a transcendent idea that belongs to everyone; an educator who believes every child is entitled to an excellent public education and every teacher the support necessary to deliver it; a breast cancer patient who is interested less in racing for a cure and more in finding what cause this epidemic that is killing so many of us; and, a mother who hopes for her daughter a future where she will be empowered to sing her song.  I am an ordinary woman with extraordinary people in her life, but I am still unconvinced that Mr. Romney represents my interests. He just doesn’t seem to understand me. I wonder would he understand Gloria Steinem, who just last week shared her idea for economic growth at the YWCA Maricopa County Women’s Empowerment Series. Commenting on the presidential election and the socio-economic issues facing women, she suggested,

Equal pay for comparable work for women would be the greatest economic stimulus this county could ever have.

Such a reasonable idea, it is stunning to know that both Romney and his vice-presidential nominee  reject the concept of equal pay for equal work. As the mother of a daughter seated at a table with eight other women, I felt outraged to hear of such extremism, to accept that while we have come far as women, a Romney presidency would ensnare us in a former time.

Watching the Arizona election results come in tonight, the prospect of any meaningful change – let alone a breath of fresh air –  seems distant for the state I call home. I am frustrated for friends who have campaigned long and hard to change hearts and minds in Arizona. As during the last general election, I also helped register voters, knowing that voting is perhaps the most important privilege of democracy in the USA. It is granted only to United States Citizens, however, and permanent residents like me may not vote. There are others in Arizona who cannot vote. They have lived here since they were very young, perhaps taken their first steps or spoken their first words in Arizona. Too, they have pledged allegiance to the flag every day in school, but they cannot vote, nor are they permitted to apply for a social security number  which would allow them to work, drive, enjoy all the benefits afforded to those who are born here. What about them today?

As election day comes to a close, I am still thinking about these young people, and the resilience and resolve of one in particular. I am also thinking about the promise I made to Gloria Steinem when I had a chance to meet her last week. Following her remarks at the YWCA luncheon, she described to us the deal she has made for years at the end of organizing events. To sustain momentum, she would  promise organizers that if, in the next 24 hours they would do just one outrageous thing in the name of simple justice, that she would do the same. She told us it could be anything. Anything we want it to be. Only we know what it should be –  pick it up yourself, run for office, suggest that everyone in the office tell how much they make thereby allowing everyone to know who is being discriminated against. In return, Gloria Steinem guaranteed two outcomes. First, she guaranteed that after one day, the world would be a better place, and secondly that we would have a good time. Never again would we wake up wondering if we would do an outrageous thing; rather, we would wake up and consider which outrageous thing we might do today, tomorrow, and the next day. Gloria explains it much better:

What was the outrageous thing I did today? Well, it happened during lunchtime. Not knowing this afternoon if President Obama would be re-elected, I had been thinking  about the poignant promise of his “deferred action,” the executive order he signed earlier this year to ensure that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would not deport certain DREAM Act–eligible undocumented youth.

The DREAM (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act is still maddeningly elusive. It makes sense to reasonable people, its purpose to help young people who meet the following requirements so they may enlist in the military or go to college and finally have a path to citizenship:

  • must have entered the United States before the age of 16
  • must have been present in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill
  • must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university)
  • must be between the ages of 12 and 35
  • must have good moral character

Unquestionably, the President had turned his outrage into action, making sure these  these young people would be given temporary relief called “deferred action.”

A young immigrant woman I know completed the cumbersome application, paid the hefty application fee of $465, and showed up for her biometrics appointment today at 1:00PM.  With her paperwork and her passport in hand, she sat in the waiting room of the American Immigration and Citizenship Services Office. Her parents could not wait there with her. Knowing she would be alone, a friend and I arrived just after 1PM to find her waiting for her dream to begin. I was struck by the number of young faces filled with hope in that spacious waiting area, and for a long time, I will remember the anticipation of happiness that spread across her face when the bored official finally called her number. Number 48.  Within moments, she was photographed, fingerprinted, and sent on her way to wait for a letter in the mail, official confirmation of the President’s promise. Before leaving the building, I told her to ask the security officers if she could turn her phone back on so she could take a picture of herself standing next to the pictures of Barack Obama and former Arizona Governor, Janet Napolitano. Telling her, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Use of cameras or phones is prohibited inside the building, and this was reinforced by one of the young officers. But another,  sensing the magnitude of the moment, with a wink and a nod, gave us permission to capture it – a kind stranger acting a little outrageously himself. She will finish high school, knowing that she can work legally, access the dream that belongs to all of us.

When we walked outside, her father was there with his camera rolling, not willing to miss this moment that will allow him to rest a little easier. Silent and stoic, he just kept taking pictures, taking me back to all those moments frozen in the memories of parents everywhere – first words, first tentative steps, first days at school.  Not much different from the day I filmed my own daughter, clapping her hands for the first time, saying “mama.” So many times, we miss these moments. Other obligations call. Today, timing worked. I’m glad I didn’t miss this moment today, because it was outrageous, and it was right.

More information about deferred action is available in this FAQ created jointly by NILC and United We Dream.

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