SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND
Katrina Dizon says she has not been sleeping well this week. She’s been anxious about the U.S. elections and her role in them.
“I set my alarm for 6 a.m. but I'd been up since 5:00, just kind of lying there waiting for my alarm to get off,” she said Tuesday outside her polling station in Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC.
The 29-year-old Philippine American says she was worried she would break the voting machine when casting a ballot for the first time, just three months after becoming a U.S. citizen.
“But everything went smoothly. And I'm definitely very excited, especially since I worked so hard on this campaign. I knocked on doors. I made phone calls with my friends. And just the fact that I got to be a part of it, it means so much to me. I'm very, very happy,” she said.
Dizon, who supports Democratic President Barack Obama's reelection, moved to the United States from the Philippines when she was three years old. Her family came on a tourist visa and spent several years as undocumented immigrants before attaining legal permanent residency and, later, citizenship.
Dizon says it was that experience that propelled her to work in the labor movement
, becoming a voice for immigrants, and to vote for Obama.
“I think overall [Obama] shares the values that I've been brought up with. I'm very close with the work I do with the Asian-American community. I think he's worked hard for us to earn the rights and a voice in the workplace and the country,” she said.
Dizon says other members of the area's Philippine community, many of whom are Catholic, are voting for former Massachusetts Governor Republican Mitt Romney for president because he shares their values.
Whoever wins, Dizon says she plans to remain an outspoken labor advocate, especially now that she feels the added confidence of being a U.S. citizen.
“Not being a citizen, you kind of feel like you're a second class citizen. You definitely don't have as many rights. So when I finally naturalized in August, I feel like it was a great weight off my shoulders. Like I finally made it; I'm free,” she said.
Standing outside her polling station, wearing an Obama T-shirt and an “I Voted” sticker on her blazer, Dizon said she feels that voting somehow made her citizenship more official.
“It was a great feeling of accomplishment because I feel like I earned it, and I feel like my parents earned it for me, too. And it's something I'm grateful for and will never ever take for granted,” she said.
That is an accomplishment she wants other immigrants to the United States to understand, regardless of who wins the presidency.
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