Northlake woman works to get out the vote
Candalaria Sanchez helps people with questions at a citizenship workshop Sept. 29 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Melrose Park. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 5, 2012 10:42AM
NORTHLAKE — Candalaria Sanchez knocks on the doors of west suburban homes and asks people if they’ve registered to vote.
“Some say, it’s nice you do this,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “Other people say no, no, no. Some people say, I don’t want to do this, and close the door.”
Sanchez’s family emigrated from Mexico City, starting with her father in the early 1970s. He used to collect manure in stables and sell it for fertilizer.
He moved to Melrose Park and worked at Scholle Packaging. Over the years, his family joined him in the U.S., with Sanchez arriving in 1979 at age 23.
She also worked at Scholle as a machine operator for more than two decades. She raised four children in Northlake, and in the early 1990s, became a U.S. citizen.
“To become an integral part of this country,” Sanchez said.
She also encouraged her mother, a sister and a brother to apply for citizenship. She helped them memorize the answers to the 100 questions that could be asked during the citizenship process. Her mother and brother were sworn in as citizens in 2011 and her brother in September 2012.
Three years ago, Sanchez was attending church when a representative of the West Suburban Action Project announced a planned citizenship workshop. The representative asked if Sanchez could help. She hesitated, and then decided to help out.
Since then, she’s helped at other citizenship workshops in the west suburbs and has knocked on hundreds of doors, asking residents mostly of Latino background if they have registered to vote.
“In this country, our vote does matter,” Sanchez said. “Its not like in our country (Mexico).”
This past summer, there were widespread allegations of voter fraud in the presidential elections in Mexico.
Sanchez doesn’t know how much time she’s spent talking to Cook County residents about voting, though she usually does so in increments of two to three hours.
“At church after each mass, I’m outside,” Sanchez said. “Are you registered to vote?”
Part of her motivation is the shift in attitudes toward immigrants, particularly in states such as Arizona and Alabama.
“When I came to this country, I felt very welcome,” Sanchez said. “Now I see persecution.”
Some of that persecution she saw in Selma, Ala., where she marched in a parade earlier this year to honor Martin Luther King Jr. In 2011, the Alabama legislature passed a bill aimed at driving undocumented workers out of the state.
While the bill has been challenged in court and modifications are proposed, aspects such as requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain remain in place.
Sanchez is also concerned about undocumented young people who are not eligible for college financial aid.
“The change comes from the ground,” Sanchez said. “That’s why I motivate people to become citizens. That’s why I know we have to vote.”
Sanchez is excited a granddaughter in Virginia plans to vote for the first time in the November presidential election.
“It’s important that (officials) hear through our vote, what we want and what we need,” Sanchez said.