First time voter: a refugee votes for the first time

First time voter: a refugee votes for the first timeThis refugee from Burma shares what it’s like to be a first-time voter

“Today, I added something to my bucket-list because today, I was a first time voter,” said Iris, a refugee from Burma. “I just learned the term,” said Iris. “Bucket-list, I mean.”

Iris passed the US citizenship test earlier this year and took her Oath of Allegiance at a ceremony in her home state of California.

Iris is from a small village in Burma. She fled her village with her family when she was eight-years-old and lived in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border for twelve years before being resettled to the United States. She has lived in California for nine years.

How does it feel to be a first-time voter? “I can’t tell you the joy I feel,” said Iris. “In Burma, my family could not vote. We had no say in the government, my opinion would not matter. But, today, as a Karen-American, I was voted.”

The Refugee Center Online is proud of Iris. Iris spent three years studying for the Civics exam before completing the naturalization process. She has now become a first-time voter. Iris wants to help more refugees become US citizens. Iris said, “If I could have studied in Pwo Karen [her first language], I would have passed the test many years ago.”

Iris said she felt very nervous about voting. She went to the poll booth but did not really know what to expect. After she voted, she felt “really a lot of joy.”

“My daughter is already a citizen and she is lucky because she will always know the feeling of getting to vote. And now, I can too.”

Refugees shaking hands

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About Voices
Refugee voices are stories or articles written by refugees or immigrants around the world who currently reside in the United States of America.