Immigration, gun reform high priorities for Spanish native

By Ivy Kaplan

Although she can’t legally vote in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections as a foreign national, that won’t stop American University senior Xana Pena Rivas for speaking out on political issues she’s passionate about.

Pena Rivas, who lives right outside of Parkland and has seen firsthand the tragic impact of a mass shooting on a community, said she believes gun violence is one of the most important issues plaguing the country today.

“I feel like it’s one of the issues that I keep hearing about constantly in the news cycle,” Pena Rivas said. “It’s like there’s a shooting constantly, and coming from a country where that doesn’t happen, I personally always am shocked when it happens here.”

Xana Pena Rivas

According to Pena Rivas, gun control is not even on the public’s radar in Spain, making the contrast between the two countries and the need for reform in the U.S. even more apparent.

“There are no gun laws in Spain since it’s not a big issue,” Pena Rivas said. “Police officers don’t even always walk with guns.”

Although Pena Rivas moved to the U.S. at age 14, to this day she is still trying to navigate the U.S. immigration system and become an American citizen, a process that she claimed is “not easy” due to the many legal steps and requirements for naturalization.

Given her firsthand experience and frustration in dealing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, immigration immediately stood out to her as a topic to keep in mind during the midterms.

“Immigration is definitely a huge factor currently, and as somebody who goes through the immigration process there needs to be a change,” Pena Rivas said. “It’s too hard to come to the U.S.”

Citing specific challenges such as seeking legal assistance, Pena Rivas believes the immigration process needs to be significantly simplified by potential political candidates.

“Being from Europe it’s a lot easier, but … finding a lawyer that knows how the system works is almost impossible, which is like their job,” Pena Rivas said. “If they can’t even understand the system then how are normal people supposed to understand the system?”