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Former refugees vote for the first time

Friday October 23rd, 2020 was a remarkable day in two remarkable lives. For two women who had arrived in this country as refugees, it was the culmination of a long series of significant steps in their new home. 

Bae Shae and Sui arrived in Texas in 2009 and 2008.  Coming from families that fled Burma, the two women met freshman year of high school and became fast friends.  After graduation in 2017, they went their separate ways: Bae Shae to University of Texas at Arlington to study architectural engineering and Sui to Texas A&M Commerce to become a teacher, and yet, the women remained close.  

On Halloween 2019, after tests and interviews and pledging their allegiance to the country that helped them to start a new life, the two became citizens together. To Bae Shae, becoming a citizen was more than just a piece of paper. “I was considered from Burma but was born in Thailand in a refugee camp. I felt like I didn’t have a home. Being a citizen in America gave me a home. America is home.”  

And so, nearly a year after their citizenship ceremony, on a mild October day in 2020, Bae Shae picked up Sui to drive to Richland College to cast their votes in their first election. Together again, the two women masked up and performed their civic duty. 

Sui said she was “very excited to vote but also very nervous” but emphasized that voting “means that I am saying my opinion out loud that I am doing something to make changes.”

Though it was the first time, it surely won’t be the last time voting for these young women. Bae Shae says that “voting allows me to be involved in the country that I’m going to live in and grow up in and be a part of for the rest of my life.”

Bae Shae and Sui will both her graduating this year from their colleges and will continue to be friends because as Sui says, “we do major things together.”