Raising Immigrant Voices in the U.S. Political Process

In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania to now President Donald Trump by little more than 44,000 votes. That number accounts for a difference of about three-quarters of 1 percent. Pennsylvania was one of several states where Trump claimed victory by the slimmest of margins. Clinton lost by less than 1 percent in Michigan and Wisconsin, and just above 1 percent in Florida. For Democrats, the election was a disaster that could have been avoided if more voters had participated. Now, leaders like Murat Guzel are working to ensure the disaster will not be repeated in 2018 and 2020.

Guzel is a Turkish immigrant, small business entrepreneur, and frequent donor to the Democratic Party. Last September, he started the New Americans Caucus (link is external), a group that aims to engage and empower first and second generation Americans in Pennsylvania in the political process.

The idea, Guzel said, is to encourage immigrants to “raise their voices” by registering to vote and turning out on election day. According to the caucus, there are almost 400,000 naturalized citizens in Pennsylvania.

“We could make this state permanently blue by turning New Americans into Democratic super voters,” the group’s website reads. The New Americans Caucus also seeks out candidates with immigrant backgrounds to run for office at all levels of government.

Guzel, who serves as chairperson of the caucus, sees the Democratic Party as the vehicle to support and maintain the status of immigrants in the U.S.

To that point, Guzel refers to Ronald Reagan, a president admired by many Republicans, as one of his idols, praising Reagan’s role in creating a peaceful resolution to the Cold War. However, for Guzel, today’s Republican administration, steered by President Donald Trump and fraught with anti-immigrant rhetoric, is a far cry from the leadership of the 1980s.

“They are really shaking the foundation of this country,” Guzel said. “What makes America strong is its diversity.”

While the New Americans Caucus is building its presence in the Keystone State, Guzel hopes to expand the program into other states with the goal of boosting immigrant participation in politics nationwide.

As an immigrant himself, Guzel said he knows that New Americans are hardworking, innovative people, many of whom have already found success in this country. However, he affirms economic success does not equate to having a voice. The only way to be heard, Guzel said, is to get involved in the political system.

“When you don’t raise your voices, you are not living,” he said.

To learn more about the New Americans Caucus, click here.

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