By Emily Drooby
The line to vote stretched two city avenues. Despite the wait, underneath her mask, Simone Henry was smiling. This was the moment she had been working towards for years.
As a brand-new American citizen, she was finally getting a chance to cast her vote.
“I’m excited because I feel like it’s very important for this election,” Simone said.
More than 23 million U.S. immigrants will be eligible to vote in the 2020 election. That’s about 10 percent of the national electorate. It’s estimated that 3.1 million became naturalized after the 2016 election. Simone is one of them.
She came to the U.S. from Jamaica back in 2009 and got her green card in 2016.
“From there I knew that I wanted to become a citizen,” she said. “I can’t wait.”
The Christian woman relied on Catholic Migration Services’ free help throughout the process. The group offers free legal screenings and services to documented and undocumented immigrants residing in Brooklyn and Queens. They’re affiliated with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.
Simone wanted to vote in the 2020 election to ensure a better future for her sons.
“I have three boys, we are colored, we are minority, we are in a community that needs funding,” she said. “The schools need funding.”
So, she cracked the books and studied hard for her April citizenship test and interview. She was ready but then the world shut down. Simone was terrified she wouldn’t become a citizen in time.
“I was very worried,” Simone said. “I was very worried because I want to be a part of that group that has a voice. Especially for this election. It’s very important for me.”
It’s an issue many immigrants faced. Simone was one of the lucky ones, she got a new date in August and officially became a citizen on September 26, just in time.
“I’m really excited because I feel like I’m going to be a part of a change,” she said, “a part of making a decision for my kid’s future, for myself, in terms of immigration, in terms of jobs, benefits.”
On Saturday, Oct. 24, the first day of early voting, Simone exercised her right as an American.
While it was a two-and-a-half-hour line and the last leg of her 11 year journey to the polls, Simone finally got the “I voted” sticker.
But having her voice heard was the real prize.