I've never voted in my life. Not because I don't care, but because of my legal status. I left Japan when I was 15 (way before I took interest in politics), and I was on a student visa from 15 until 24, then on a work visa until 27, then obtained my permanent residency or green card (which, by the way, is not green). As a resident alien (title I love), I can work and therefore required to pay taxes, but two things I can't do is vote and serve on a jury duty. The latter is perhaps a gift in some ways (though I realize it's an important civic duty), in that I can just write "not a citizen" on a post card and not worry about getting out of work or being stuck in a difficult case for days, but the not being able to vote is tough.
There are issues at stake that are important to me and people around me as I have spent nearly 30 years in this country. I wish so much that I could express my voice in a form of a vote, but I can't. People have asked why don't I just become a citizen. It is a logical question to them, but very complicated, emotional question to me and I choke on the answer every time. One is the identity. As most of my family is in Japan, I am still very much connected to my home country, despite the fact that I have been in the US twice as long. I think it's because that is my origin of my being, where I was raised in my formative years, where the house I grew up is (with people who raised and grew up with me in it), and where I go to be with the people who really know my true colors, and ground me in between my adventures. Changing citizenship would feel like I am throwing away all of that and severing my roots from my body. That's not necessarily true and it sounds dramatic, but that is how it feels.
The other is the practicality. If Japan offered the option of a dual citizenship as many countries do, I would probably obtain citizenship in the US. But Japan doesn't, so having a green card is the closest thing to having dual citizenship. Should something happen to my family in Japan, I could go and stay longer than a tourist would be able to and have the rights to do things that visitors don't. Should some situation arise in the US where I felt unsafe, I could take my daughter there. And that is another thing--opportunity for my daughter. Because I am a Japanese citizen and her father is a US citizen, she has both. She can have that until she is 22 and she has to chose. At this point, she is likely to chose the US citizenship which is what I expect and am fine with, but should she choose to go study in Japan during college, she can have the benefit of a citizen and possibly work there, etc. It opens up more choices for her.
Most Japanese people I know in the US keep their green cards like I do for similar reasons. We're not an immigrating people anymore. The wave of Japanese farmers that came over (a.k.a Isseis) in the 1800s came for better life like all the other immigrants. But then there was a period of time in the US that banned Asians from immigrating and after that was WWII when Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans were interned which caused all kinds of emotional turmoil about where they belong. Then Japan rebuilt during post war and became big and strong (I apologize for this totally over simplified history, BTW) so the need to immigrate went away for the most part. Now, Japanese people who come to the US are either for school or if their company sends them. Most of them go back. Handful of them don't--like me. Coming here changed my life. It opened doors that I couldn't have imagined and it helped me to find who I am. Not to mention I would have never met my husband who thinks I'm funny. That alone is a life changing event. I care deeply for the future of this place and I work hard every day to contribute in gratitude. Yet I have no voice because of the choices I made. It's hard being me, I know.
So I can engage in conversations and perhaps inform people who might be on the fence. I can give money or my time to places that I believe is going to do some good or doing great goods. Maybe things will change for future elections for me but for this one, I have to once again sit on the side line and just route.
Do the right thing, America. I believe in you.