Presidential elections are often defining historical moments. Long after the excitement of election season has passed, Presidents make crucial decisions that shape our lives. Even years after their tenure expires, the effects of their choices can linger for years. So Americans should care about the outcome of elections 2016, and given United States’ global stature, the world should care.
What are the defining issues of Election 2016? Clinton and Trump have clashed on everything from trade to their own personal “fitness” for office. It has been a spirited, if somewhat acrimonious campaign. Some might feel as if the actual policy differences between the candidates have been lost amidst the rhetoric and divisiveness of this election season; but the policy differences are vast and consequential. The two candidates are proposing vastly divergent agendas for the United States.
As Eritrean-Americans, we should care deeply about the big questions shaping this election. We have a stake in this country, and the debate about trade, taxes, and economic growth, among many other issues, will have an important impact on our individual and collective well-being. But there are other policy areas that should be of particular concern to us.
One of those issues is immigration, where the two candidates have starkly divergent views. Trump has staked his candidacy on a more thorough policing of illegal immigration. Clinton seems to differ with Trump over the question of deportation, among other aspects of his approach to immigration, and wants to normalize the 11 million undocumented immigrants that currently reside in the US. Many Eritrean-Americans have friends and family that are trying to navigate the immigration system in this country, and its important that we engage this election cycle with their interests in mind. And in casting our votes, its important we dig deep on the immigration debate, as the issue facing many Eritrean immigrants is not so much the risk of deportation, as it is transitioning to a stable life in a totally new country and social environment. Immigrants don’t just need legal status; they require support to make the shift to sustainable, and independent livelihoods in their new homeland.
The other big issue in this election for Eritrean Americans is race relations. The flurry of questionable shootings of young black men over the course of the last few years demands our attention. Eritrean-Americans are members of the black community, and the issue of racial discrimination has a real bearing on Eritrean youth in this country. We need to carefully consider what candidate will best tackle this problem, and the broader challenge of institutionalized racism within our criminal justice system.
Finally, it is important that we think about how these candidates will shape US foreign policy towards Africa and the Horn. We are not entirely sure where the candidates stand on these issues, but Eritrean Americans should make informed choices. As Eritrean Americans, it is important we recognize the ways we can help foster productive ties between the US and Eritrean peoples.
Whatever your decision is this election cycle, make sure you vote and make the voice of the Eritrean American community heard. A seat at the table requires making a conscious effort to participate in our democratic process!