Hundreds of New Americans Registered to Vote Today

Dozens of volunteers help new citizens in "the first duty of citizenship"

June 29, 2012 BOSTON — Newly naturalized U.S. citizen Siewnarine Mohaber lifted his red baseball cap and gently patted the top of his head."See, my friend, I had an accident," said the Guyanese native. "It made it difficult to study for my citizenship exam."

Through perseverance, the story had a happy ending — as did the stories of almost 1,800 other people from 114 countries who became U.S. citizens today, swearing an oath of allegiance before United States Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler at the Seaport World Trade Center.

After the huge naturalization ceremony, Mohaber then joined hundreds of other New Americans to begin the next phase of life. With the help of a trained volunteer from the  Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), the Dorchester resident registered to vote, entering into what Judge Bowler called "the first responsibility of citizenship."

"Back home in my country, I remember waiting for that opportunity to cast a ballot," Mohaber said, "As a citizen, it's part of what you have to do."

"It's not only our right, it actually does make a difference," added Dominican native Lany Guillen, as she stopped to register with her friend's cousin, Luzmar Centeno-Valerio, who had been searching for her through the crowd.

Today's naturalization ceremony marked the launch of the MIRA Coalition's "FIGHT BACK: VOTE" Campaign, utilizing over 90 volunteers to collect as many new voter registrations as possible. As Election Day approaches, MIRA will ramp up its Get Out the Vote efforts by knocking on over 5,000 doors and calling 20,000 new citizens. MIRA’s civic engagement campaign also extends into New Hampshire, where 10,000 pro-immigrant voters will be mobilized to vote in November.

"There's always the notion that immigrants do not vote," said MIRA Organizing Director Marcony Almeida. "That's why elected officials don't always pay attention to our interests." With newly drawn minority-majority districts, this year's election can correct that impression like never before.

As Judge Bowler put it in her comments, "We talk a lot about the right to free speech, but where you can really be heard is at the ballot box."

As Almeida noted, the goal reaches far beyond November: "We want to help these new citizens become civically engaged, not just for the presidential election, but for always."