Kathy Dos Santos’ student visa and father’s food importing business were her tickets to freedom.
The 21-year-old UF international studies junior was 12 years old when she left Venezuela for Homestead, Florida, in July 2010. All she remembers is a blur of airports, luggage and customs before arriving to her new home.
Politics have been tied to Dos Santos’ identity since she came to the United States. But as a legal resident, not a citizen, she cannot vote.
It’s killing her that she can’t, she said.
“I’m not an expert, either, in American politics, but I would say that I know more than maybe the average citizen,” she said.
Growing up in the tense political climate of Venezuela with Portuguese parents, Dos Santos said she and her parents regularly watch Brazilian, Portuguese and American news outlets to learn about pressing political issues.
Although Dos Santos’ father only has a second grade education, he is the person in her family everyone goes to with their political questions, she said.
Dos Santos’ roommates and friends ask her questions about how to vote and for whom to vote for.
She is beginning her citizenship forms and hopes to vote in the next election. She spent the night at home watching the results roll in with her roommate while rooting for Andrew Gillum, she said.
“Despite being unable to participate, I feel like I’m still a part of this election,” she said.