Virginia Rivera woke up early to catch a bus to see Bernie Sanders speak in Sparks, Nevada – more than 200 miles from her home in Daly City, California.
Forty-four-year old Rivera immigrated to the U.S. 27 years ago from El Salvador. She became a citizen in 2004, voting for Obama in her first presidential election in 2008.
“Thank god I’m a citizen now and can vote but for many years, renewing a permit was such a scary thought. My husband got deported when I was three months pregnant,” she said. “We tried every legal way. Every organizer we knew tried to help us, but it was not possible. He had to cross the border again, risking his life again on the border and he had to come back, because it was either that or our marriage was over.”
Rivera said she lost her insurance and had a hard time getting prenatal care. She went through the entire pregnancy without her husband. He eventually came back from Nicaragua one day before their daughter’s first birthday.
“When I hear stories, I just cry, because I see myself in those situations; when I had to go through all of that. Even after he came, he had a valid social security [number], but you don’t know what kind of record you have. So you are scared to just walk out the door,” said Rivera.
Rivera’s husband is hoping his citizenship paperwork will complete in time to cast a vote for Sanders this November. Their baby is now 18 and will be voting for the first time this year, as well. Rivera proudly shares that their daughter is studying political science with aspirations of one day becoming a U.S. senator.
“It’s important for all families to get their kids engaged at a very young age. Both my husband and I have always worked in youth groups, organizing things in the community, and the girls have grown up with that. We watch the news and we even watch the channels we don’t like because we want to see what the contrast is.”
Rivera says there is too much at stake for Latinos in this presidential election, adding that if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, it’s important for Democrats to stick together.
“We got [sic] to thank Donald Trump for waking us up. Some of us have always been involved and aware, but others, a lot of Latinos they just don’t feel that they belong to the process,” she said. “Maybe they don’t understand the whole process or the language, but that is our job now. For the ones that try to understand, who study to understand it; to help the others because each one of them counts.”