Can't Vote But Campaigning Hard For Presidential Candidates Some young immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. without papers are working for Democratic candidates who support a path to citizenship for them.
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Can't Vote But Campaigning Hard For Presidential Candidates

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Can't Vote But Campaigning Hard For Presidential Candidates

Can't Vote But Campaigning Hard For Presidential Candidates

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Presidential campaigns require armies of staffers to organize volunteers and to get out the vote. But some campaign staff can't vote themselves. They're not citizens but immigrants who, as children, came to the U.S. illegally. From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Jude Joffe-Block reports.

BELEN SISA: So let's see, anybody coming up?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Vote for Bernie.

SISA: Hi, feel the Bern...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Vote for Bernie Sanders.

JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK, BYLINE: At Phoenix's monthly art walk, volunteers for the Bernie Sanders' campaign are registering supporters for the primary.

SISA: There you go - congrats. You're registered to vote.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Volunteer Belen Sisa is a 21-year-old college student with long, wavy hair. She's so passionate about Sanders, she's out here on a Friday night. But she won't be voting for him; she can't. Sisa is not a citizen, and there's no path for her to become one. She's a so-called DREAMer - born in Argentina and raised here undocumented. One reason she likes Sanders so much is his immigration platform. It includes proposals to keep immigrant families together and allows some deported immigrants to return.

SISA: The way that I see it is I'm one person and I can't vote. But if I get 10 people to vote, that means a lot more than my vote alone - whenever I can vote, right?

JOFFE-BLOCK: In 2012, President Barack Obama used his executive power to give DREAMers like Sisa a temporary work permit. That was Sisa's own political awakening. She realized other DREAMers a few years older than her, made that victory possible through lobbying and civil disobedience. Two prominent activists from the Dreamer movement - Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas - now work for Bernie Sanders and help craft his position on immigration.

SISA: Five years ago, you would never see someone undocumented be hired by such a high-profile campaign. And now to win the campaign, they need them.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Hillary Clinton's director of Latino Outreach, Lorella Praeli, also came out of the DREAMer movement. Her family came to the U.S. from Peru when she was a child, and they overstayed their visas.

LORELLA PRAELI: I thought there is so much at stake in this selection, I want to work for a candidate that's going to fight for my family - that's going to fight for me and for my family.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Praeli herself is already on a path to citizenship. She's married to an American. She expects she'll be able to cast her first ballot for her boss in 2016. Praeli says there's nothing more powerful than finally being recognized by the country she calls home.

PRAELI: It is my deepest desire for every undocumented person in this country to get to experience what I've been going through.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Beyond supporting a path to citizenship for the undocumented, the three leading Democratic presidential candidates have each pledged to expand upon Obama's executive actions that shield unauthorized immigrants from deportation.

BEN JOHNSON: The Democratic Party is not having the same existential crisis that the Republican Party is having when it comes to immigration. And in fact, they have leaned into the issue in some very powerful ways.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Ben Johnson is with the Washington-based American Immigration Council, an advocacy group that says it's for a humane immigration policy. Johnson says DREAMers helped shift the immigration debate and says it makes perfect sense that presidential campaigns are hiring them.

JOHNSON: What the DREAMer movement has done, the way that they have organized themselves proves them to be enormously effective political organizers. They're good at what they do.

SISA: Are you signed up to volunteer?

JOFFE-BLOCK: As for Sanders' volunteer Belen Sisa, she just got hired with the campaign in Las Vegas.

SISA: To be able to finally have a job with the campaign is, like, a dream come true for me.

JOFFE-BLOCK: And Sisa's other dreams - of ultimately becoming a citizen and one day voting herself - could be determined by who wins the White House in 2016. For NPR News, I'm Jude Joffe-Block in Phoenix.

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