The Atlanta Lawyer — April 2014
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Lisa Liang

EVERY VOTE COUNTS the impact of immigrants and Voting

Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.

President Dwight Eisenhower established the first Law Day in 1958 to mark the nation’s commitment to the rule of law. In 1961, congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day, which is codified U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 113. Every president since then has issued a law Day proclamation on May 1 to celebrate the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Since the inception of law Day, the atlanta bar has taken a proactive and leading role in the promotion of law Day. This year’s law Day theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. As we approach the 50th anniversaries of the civil rights act of 1964 and the Voting rights act of 1965, the 2014 law Day theme calls on every American to reflect on the importance of a citizen’s right to vote and the challenges we still face in ensuring that all americans have the opportunity to participate in our democracy.

Newly admitted citizens of the united states are uniquely positioned to reflect upon the privilege, responsibility and importance of the right to vote. Charles Kuck, Managing partner of Kuck Immigration Partners, reflected on this point by highlighting the power of the right to vote: “the right to vote is especially treasured by immigrants. Many come from countries where the choice of candidates is dictated by the government. The right to vote – to select their government – is the highest symbol of their new citizenship.”

Jessica stern of sternlaw, who along with criminal defense work, does a significant amount of immigration work, adds to Kuck’s point about the motivation and power of the right to vote: “with this honor of citizenship comes the opportunity to vote. With so many of their loved ones and friends underrepresented by our government, the opportunity to vote and have their voices heard is a duty that is not taken lightly. Casting one’s vote as a new u.s. citizen is the link that binds our interwoven ideas and cultures, creating the beautiful fabric of our nation.“

so not only does the power to vote motivate newly admitted citizens to vote, it also motivates them to become lawful citizens. Kuck observes that “voting is a sacred right; for these new citizens, it is a powerful motivator to pass through a complex and difficult immigration process.” Stern offers her experience: “immigrants may strive to maintain a cultural identity, but most want nothing more than to contribute to this great country that has offered their families so much. I have never seen a prouder moment than when, after decades of persistence and dedicated allegiance to the united states, a client becomes a full-fledged U.S. Citizen. With this honor of citizenship comes the opportunity to vote.”

Kuck shares stern’s experience of the profound pride that accompanies citizenship and the right to vote: “My immigrant clients, with tears in their eyes, have told me many times how powerful they felt that Tuesday in November when they first voted in their new country.”

with more than 40% of the eligible voting age population voting in presidential elections and an even greater percentage foregoing voting in state and local elections, newly admitted citizens’ experiences of voting – that every vote counts – is a powerful statement.

“[T]he vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” – Lyndon B. Johnson