This immigrant and law student wants you to make your voice heard on Nov. 8.

Luis Canales will be casting a ballot. He hopes you'll do the same.

It's been a long journey, but 29-year-old Luis Canales is ready to cast a ballot in his first ever presidential election.

Today, Luis is a third-year law student at Villanova University, where he volunteers for the school's Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES) program, a faculty-supervised clinic where students provide free legal representation to refugees, immigrants, and asylum-seekers in the U.S. Just years earlier, he was among them, a Honduran asylum-seeker trying to navigate our country's convoluted immigration system.

Luis holds the shoes he wore during his travels to the U.S. from Honduras. Photo courtesy of Luis Canales.


At age 16, in an attempt to escape a life besieged by gang violence, Luis fled his home in Honduras.

The 12th of 14 children born to a poor family in the town of Siguatepeque, Luis says he was active at school and in his community and vocal in his opposition to guns, drugs, and gangs. It was those stances that got him targeted by the gang MS-13. After being shot at by MS-13 members when he was 15, Luis had no choice but to leave the country.

"The trip was so horrible," he says, describing his 2004 journey to the U.S. "I used a cargo train in Mexico to make it to the United States. Even though I [faced] a lot of danger, and hunger, and suffering, and coldness, and everything else that you can think of, as being outside, on top of the cargo train, I just had in my mind: 'Luis, you have to keep on going. If you go back to Honduras, you're going to be killed.' That was my incentive to continue the trip."

The city cathedral in Comayagua, Honduras, near Siguatepeque. Photo by Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images.

Recounting his trip, Luis describes horrors that no teenager should have to witness. "I saw people falling from the train, being cut in half," he says. "One of the people, I actually heard him yelling when he was on his way down to the train wheels. ... Seeing those things was very difficult for me."

His first trip to the U.S. was cut short. Immediately upon arrival in Eagle Pass, Texas, Luis was placed in a shelter before eventually being returned home to Honduras. As a minor with no relatives in the U.S., he could not stay. Upon his return, he again found himself targeted by gangs.

In total, he made four trips to the U.S., eventually connecting with family in Pennsylvania, where he began the long process of establishing legal status.

It took five and a half years for Luis to be granted asylum in the U.S. He later became a permanent legal resident before becoming a full-fledged citizen in August 2014.

More than 7,500 miles worth of travel and years of legal maneuvering later, Luis made it.

Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images.

Immigration is a hot topic in the 2016 election, and it's certainly been on Luis' mind.

"I have been insulted by one of the candidates many, many times," Luis said, referencing Donald Trump. "You know, calling immigrants in general very bad words, and [saying] we only come to this country to take from the country."

Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric was a slap in the face to Luis, who not only went through the arduous process of teaching himself English but has taken pains to give back to others through his volunteer work.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the second presidential debate. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

"We immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers do not come here because we did not have anything else to do, or because we wanted an easy life," Luis adds. "We have come here for survival, for opportunities, for a better life for our children.  We do not come to take. We come to give, and we give back a lot, especially to those communities that have welcomed us. We work really hard to give back as much as we can."

This year, while tens of millions of people will vote, nearly half the country will probably sit this one out. If you're in the latter group, Luis hopes he can change your mind.

"Your vote is your voice," he says.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Make your voice heard and vote.

More
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
LUSH

Handmade cosmetics company Lush is putting its money where its mouth is and taking a bold step for climate change action.

On September 20 in the U.S. and September 27 in Canada, Lush will shut the doors of its 250 shops, e-commerce sites, manufacturing facilities, and headquarters for a day, in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike taking place around the world. Lush is encouraging its 5000+ employees "to join this critical movement and take a stand until global leaders are forced to face the climate crisis and enact change."

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Photo by Annie Bolin on Unsplash

Recent tragic mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have sparked a lot of conversation and action on the state level over the issue of gun control. But none may be as encouraging as the most recent one, in which 145 CEOs signed a letter urging the U.S. Senate to take action at their level.

Keep Reading Show less
popular