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 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 9:40 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT