For a year now, young people of Modesto have joined a nationwide call to to protest President Trump’s unjust and un-American actions targeting immigrants, Muslims, women, the LGBTQ community – and our democracy in general.
We’ve taken a stand, marched in the streets, shown up at town halls and called on our local leaders to stand with us in solidarity and take real action to protect us.
Most recently, many of us have called on the Modesto City Council to declare our city a sanctuary for all Modestans, regardless of their immigration status. This “sanctuary city” designation would allow our friends and neighbors who happen to be undocumented to continue living and working in our city, contributing to our economy, without a constant fear of arrest or deportation.
It would also propel Modesto forward with a common-sense approach to safety and our local economy. It’s smart policy – plain and simple.
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Unfortunately, our calls for common sense and compassion have, so far, gone unanswered. The Modesto City Council has not yet taken action to bring Modesto into the ranks of other progressive, patriotic cities across the country who have decided to give immigrant communities sanctuary.
But there’s good news for those looking to make a change. Modesto’s municipal election on Tuesday gives us the perfect opportunity to decide the future of our city – whether it be our immigration policy, creating an economy that works for all or other issues that motivate us to march in the streets or vent on social media.
And no group is better positioned to shape Modesto’s future than young people. Twenty-nine percent of registered voters in Modesto are 18 to 34 years old, giving us the strength in numbers to help determine the outcome of our city’s elections.
Do we want to be a city that celebrates diversity and gives everyone a shot at the American Dream? A city that values hard work and determination, but also willing to lend a homeless veteran or a struggling family a helping hand?
Or do we want to be a city in which people are judged by the color of their skin, the country they came from or their financial circumstances?
Tuesday, we will have the chance to pick members of our city council and help them decide what kind of city we want to be. Three of Modesto’s City Council members are seeking re-election, and others are challenging them. Who we select in those races will be the people making decisions that most closely affect our lives, perhaps more so than the president.
It’s up to us to reward incumbents who have represented our values with our votes – and to hold accountable those who have chosen not to stand with us in our fight for a better future.
Now is our chance. Young people represent nearly a third of the electorate, and we have the power to determine who represents the future of Modesto – and who doesn’t.
We should ask: Do we see our community’s values mirrored in the leaders whose job it is to fight for us? Have they done enough to protect hardworking Dreamers? Have they worked hard enough to create good-paying jobs or jobs that pay a living wage? Have they done all they can to give homeless Modestans opportunities to get off the streets?
If a candidate has lived up to these expectations, then we can reward him or her. If not, we can choose a new councilmember.
Elections are choices, and those choices have consequences. Tuesday will be no different.
Our votes represent our collective voices, holding our leaders accountable and demanding justice for our community. I hope you’ll join me in making ourselves heard Tuesday.
Melissa Santos is the Stanislaus Regional Coordinator for Mi Familia Vota; she wrote this for The Modesto Bee.