As the hotly contested elections approach, Al Jazeera spoke to voters across the United States asking nine questions to understand who they support and why.
Mary A Shiraef
Age: 29 years old
Profession: graduate student, University of Notre Dame
Residence: San Mateo County, California
Voted 2016: Hillary Clinton
Voter in 2020: Joe Biden
Main electoral issue: immigration
Will you vote? Why or why not?
“I have already voted. And I still vote. It is a particularly important election.
“I feel like the United States is on the brink. And especially given my concerns for democracy, I have many reasons. I object to the idea of picking one – I have several. I don’t know where to start [but] I guess the most important for me is the one that impacted my friends – so the removal of DACA – from a lot of my friends, basic access deteriorated for me, and so did the certainty and basic stability for their life.
“But also, I attend the University of Notre-Dame and the university – in particular the confessional organization – [was allowed by] l’administration Trump [to remove] access to birth control, which surprised me. So, I guess I expected a Trump presidency to impact our most vulnerable populations in the United States, but I didn’t really expect it to impact me. And I was wrong.
What’s your number one problem?
“I come from an evangelical background who historically voted for abortion as the main problem, and I have been really actively opposed to that, because I think, especially right now, using a problem justifies it. others that could become permanent infrastructural features of the United States that cannot be undone.
“To answer your question, one problem that has been closest to me lately is immigration. I work on immigration topics. I also come from a family that immigrated to the United States, so I have done personal research on our family history and I have researched immigrants outside of our family. This is the closest to me, I started a project, as soon as COVID broke out to start documenting changes in immigration across the world. And this particular project showed me the scale of the changes in the United States, currently using COVID-19 as a pretext, in my opinion. But the hypocrisy behind introducing so many changes to the immigration system rather than not really having a national response at all, has been striking. So this is the closest problem to me.
Who will you vote for?
“I voted for Biden.”
Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?
“I think Biden will honestly win and I would have voted for him on the grounds of being against Trump’s sole platform. But ever since I made this decision to vote for him as the most viable candidate, I have actually become really impressed with him as a candidate. I think he’s really impressive, his commitment to American democracy [is impressive], [and] I’m really encouraged by – I think his immigration policies are reasonable and humane. And I guess the immigration issue is at the forefront of my mind.
“But overall, I was really impressed with the character of Joe Biden. I know he’s always ready to learn – I think that’s a really great quality. And, in general, I think the level of crisis that the United States is in, for that matter, someone with Biden’s level of experience, is what we need.
Are you satisfied with the state of the country?
“I’m not very happy with the state of the country. I guess the hypocrisy and the level of selfishness that manifested itself under Trump’s presidency was of real concern. I’m not criticizing people’s motivations. I don’t think people want to be that selfish, but personal centrism – the emphasis on one issue, in particular, by a lot of my old friends and family, even – has really set aside the fact that you don’t. should not vote. only with your personal interests in mind, but [with] the concerns of those around you. This hypocrisy is of great concern.
“And the lies that Trump is promulgating, I think, puts us in an information divide beyond what we’ve been through before. I think that was a bit of the rhetoric of the past elections, “we’re getting polarized, etc.” and now we’ve got past that. It is centered on all aspects of society, all institutions. It’s pretty clear, the austere division.
What would you like to see changed?
“I mean, I’m buying Biden’s promise on immigration – that he can accomplish what he set out to do in his first 100 days in office.” I don’t remember all of them, but he promised to reverse the cruelest of policies introduced by Trump, he admitted that the level of Obama’s deportations while he was sitting vice president [were] inhumane and agreed to reverse some of these policies. I don’t remember his exact promise on DACA, but I know it’s not about rescinding it or reducing it to one year like Trump did. If he wants to meet the head of Mexico in the first 100 days, I think it will be positive – it just takes having someone who has Biden’s level of diplomacy, to start meeting with foreign diplomats, again. , I think this will be a positive direction for the country. “
Do you think the election will change anything?
“It depends on who wins, how I phrase that answer. But let’s say Biden wins. I think things have already changed when it comes to people who pay a lot more attention to politics. And this country, I think in the past, our levels of demonstrations were historically very, very low, and that has changed quite radically since the Women’s March. I think this trend will continue. I think the turnout will be huge. I hope especially among black American populations [there] will be [a] historic achievement, compared to our past participation rates.
” The new generation [is] really mindful of climate change. I have students here [that are] 10 years younger than me now, and just seeing their level of enthusiasm for saving the planet is great, and knowing that they are the voters on the turn is really promising. I think this election will change a lot. “
What is your biggest concern for the United States?
“I have written a lot of letters and the biggest concern that comes up quite regularly is immigration. You know there are 4.5 million immigrants, I believe, who [try] immigrate to the United States every year, and their access has been hampered beyond the levels [seen] before, and before their access was already at an all-time low. So that is definitely my main concern.
“I think there is a moral foundation to what the country is facing. So it’s kind of a new concern that I wouldn’t have brought to the forefront of my political arguments before, but in voting for Trump I have a moral aversion to it. I think he’s actively dividing the country and the differences are acceptable, but perpetuating the rhetoric on the other side is quite dangerous and has arguably created conditions for civil war in America. The rise in violence is of great concern. And it didn’t affect me personally, but it did affect me and my friends. It is really difficult to find an answer to this question. But I guess the main concern for me is how immigrants have been treated lately and disenfranchised, really.
Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?
“When I researched my personal family history, I found a lot of documents that my family hadn’t seen before, like the ship manifests my great-grandmother from Greece took. She came as a young girl, she was brought in by her uncle… I also found that her uncle, I guess – had to save everyone’s careers. So he put himself as a laborer – that was in the 1920s – he put his wife as a housewife, and he put his two daughters and my ‘yia-yia’ Bessie as scholars. I don’t even know how old she was exactly – the documents said she was, I think, under 16 the first time around… but what is interesting is that I later found out that her age was an error, and it legally had to be fixed. And that had to be done before she could access her citizenship.
“That kind of little mistake she made [then] can now be criminalized and become grounds for deportation – it’s just crippling. Watching some of my own family vote for Trump and, you know, not being aware of this change over time or grappling with this change over time and the immigration system impacting new populations , while we have benefited immensely from it… It was really crippling for me and my response was to reach as many people as possible and share good information. I think this happens a lot in the United States, so hopefully it will continue.