Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Why I vote, and you should too

By Rosie Perez, Special to CNN
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Sat November 3, 2012
President Barack Obama announced in June that his administration would stop deporting some young people who came to the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants.
President Barack Obama announced in June that his administration would stop deporting some young people who came to the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rosie Perez: Young people's dreams can be shattered if we elect the wrong politicians
  • Perez: Obama said that he won't deport young immigrants who may be illegal
  • She says Mitt Romney may repeal policy, which would affect students who work hard
  • Perez: It's especially important for people who care about kids and education to vote

Editor's note: Rosie Perez is an Academy Award-nominated actress and Emmy-nominated choreographer.

(CNN) -- When I think about the importance of voting, I think about kids and what kind of opportunities they are going to have in life.

I've been lucky enough to have incredible opportunities that allowed me to lead a wonderful, successful life even prior to my fortunate career in the entertainment business.

The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act allowed me to work by the age of 12, helping me develop a strong work ethic. Without government financial aid I would have never been able to attend college and along the way, bump into Spike Lee, who offered me my very first role in "Do the Right Thing."

Rosie Perez
Rosie Perez

Being an actress, I've had the opportunity to work with poor students, helping to provide arts-intergrated education programs for the past 19 years, working with many young students in Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I am inspired to support young people who want a future in the arts and in jobs that will make their communities better.

I found that these students have incredible dreams for their future. But their dreams could be shattered if we elect the wrong candidates -- people who will pursue policies that do nothing for kids.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



The young people I work with come from underprivileged backgrounds. They work hard. They want to achieve the American Dream. And the American Dream is about providing opportunities for all -- rich and poor.

Many of them are the children of immigrants who brought them here when they were little, some documented and some not. Until recently, these students had to live in constant fear of being deported to another country, even though America is where they grew up and is the only home they have ever known.

Some of that fear was lifted when President Barack Obama announced earlier this year that the government will not deport young people who were brought here as children and are currently in school, have graduated from high school or obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the armed forces.

Obama: Congress should fix immigration
Understanding Obama's immigration shift
'DREAM Act kid' seeks better future
Obama interrupted at 'Dream Act' speech

Here's why voting matters.

After the new policy was announced, Mitt Romney's senior adviser, Ed Gillespie, said to CNN that if the Republican nominee is elected, this new policy will be "subject to review and repeal."

That statement brought tears to my eyes. I thought about an applicant to our organization's scholarship program -- a straight-A student whose sole dream is to become a lawyer. She was accepted to multiple Ivy League colleges but could not apply because she was not able to qualify for funding as an undocumented young person. She is thinking of going to John Jay College of Criminal Justice because it is the only place she can barely afford $6,000 a year. But this could still fall through without financial assistance. She would be forced to choose between housing and food, or a degree in law. Even if she does attend college, she will be jeopardizing her stay in the United States as an undocumented person once she enrolls because she has no idea if the policy will remain intact or be rescinded.

She is as American as anyone else, but her parents immigrated here when she was very young. She is now terrified that the new policy will be repealed. She is afraid of being deported. But what terrified her even more, she said, was that she may never become a lawyer.

It's especially important for people who care about kids and education to vote, because too many of our political leaders are just out of touch with these everyday realities.

Mitt Romney recently suggested -- at a private dinner for wealthy donors who each paid $50,000 to be there -- that it would be easier for him to be elected president if he were Latino. As if his privileged background as the son of a millionaire corporate CEO who sent him to Harvard and Harvard Law School was some kind of disadvantage in life.

"My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company," Romney said. "But he was born in Mexico, and had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this... But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico... I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

Maybe Romney thinks it's "easier" because he thinks we're all living off of government handouts, or because Jimmy Smits won the election on "The West Wing," or because he's a cynical leader who thinks that optics matter more than policies. But we're not fooled that easily.

Watch: Rosie Perez's video response to Mitt Romney's comments

Romney also said that he is not concerned about "47%" of Americans. As we take in the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, we have to ask: What if it happens again and Mitt is elected? What will the "47%" do if they have to deal with a major disaster without FEMA, without government help?

When I heard what Romney said, I realized that I needed to do more to encourage every citizen to vote in this election.

I'm going to vote because I want elected officials who understand and can relate to the obstacles that young people and their parents face every day.

I'm going to vote because it hurts all of us when at least 11 million hardworking people in this country are vulnerable to exploitation by their employers simply because our government denies them a path to citizenship.

Most of all, I'm going to vote because I believe in an America that provides liberty and justice for all, and I want every child to have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rosie Perez.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 7:12 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT