After being an intern at the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for almost a month, I have learned about the rights that must be granted within school districts, areas of employments, voting precincts, and immigration facilities as well as other non-profit organizations with similar goals. Although it seems like a given, working alongside MALDEF has taught me that passing legislation is truly a group effort and that everyone can be a part of the process. As testament to this, the efforts of several civil rights organizations as well as various senators led to the Automatic Voter Registration(AVR) bill being passed in Illinois recently. This bill automatically registers Illinois residents to vote when they visit the Secretary of State offices or another state agency, removing barriers in registering to vote and providing access to communities of color. Last week, one of the attorneys at MALDEF asked me and the other interns to accompany him to a press conference about AVR. Although we were not really informed about the structure of the press conference, we quickly learned that the new channels wanted to highlight the success of the bill and emphasize it being a group effort by having several organizations and activists speak. As a result, we were given the opportunity to represent our organization and celebrate the victory of the bill alongside great activists and organizations.
Attending this press conference allowed to me to witness the strength of the community, not only in numbers but also in how passionate community members were about the issues their organizations are tackling. It was a meaningful experience for the interns because we were introduced to leaders at the forefront in fighting discrimination within their communities. As a long-time resident of Chicago, I have taken part in activism but never on a political-level and in a environment with so many powerful decision-makers.Therefore, it was rewarding to see how mobilizing and organizing people for a cause can produce large-scale political change. In this case, democracy prevailed as the activists were able to rally legislators and policy-makers behind them to support accessibility to the voting polls.