I'm no 'anchor baby,' I'm Yanely Gonzalez and I'm going to vote

yanely community event fun
Yanely Gonzalez, 17, (left) is going to be a first-time voter in 2016.

Yanely Gonzalez is counting the days until her 18th birthday.

The big day falls just weeks before the 2016 election next November, meaning that she'll be able to vote for the next president of the United States.

And this U.S.-born daughter of undocumented immigrants from Mexico knows exactly what she will be looking for in a candidate: Someone that will help her family come out from the shadows.

"I can't wait to vote... I believe that I'm voting for my family and that my vote will make a difference," she said.

Gonzalez's parents have been in the United States since they were teenagers. They met here, married here and and are raising a family here, but they can't legally work, travel abroad or drive a car.

Gonzalez says she and her six younger brothers and sisters live in constant fear that their parents will be deported and that the family will be separated.

yanely by herself
Gonzalez spends a lot of her free time encouraging other people in her community to register to vote.

Her father, now 40, came to the U.S. at age 19 on tour with a band that played Norteña music -- a polka-influenced style of music from northern Mexico that is popular on both sides of the border. He decided to stay in the country and seek a better life.

Gonzalez's mom was brought to the U.S. at age 14 by her own mother, who brought her in tow when she was seeking better opportunities North of the border. Now, 35, she stays home to take care of the children.

"Because [my parents] don't have papers they don't feel like they're part of the U.S.," Gonzalez said. "But I feel like they are [part of the U.S.] because they contribute and because they were raised here and they raised us here."

Related: I'm no 'anchor baby,' I'm Jim Melo -- an Ivy League-educated lawyer

Gonzalez says her parents are among the millions of undocumented immigrants that qualify for protection from deportation under President Obama's executive action, which was proposed in November 2014. Under the proposed law, undocumented people who have continuously lived in the U.S. since 2010 and pass a background check would qualify. If enacted, they could obtain driver's licenses and legal work status, as well as give them a path to citizenship.

"It would help to bring steady jobs to my family," she said.

But the executive action was put on hold after the state of Texas sued the U.S. government claiming that the proposed revisions to the immigration system were unconstitutional. The judge ruled in favor of Texas, thereby blocking the executive action from being implemented. The U.S. government appealed, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The government is now petitioning the Supreme Court to review the case.

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Gonzalez (left) with other "Mi Familia Vota" volunteers at a voter drive in Denver.

Gonzalez is making sure that when she steps into the voting booth a year from now, her single ballot is going to count for a lot more. She's been volunteering with a local organization "Mi Familia Vota," for over a year to register people to vote in her community.

"My friends just need a little more information," she said. "I know some of them are going to vote and want to vote. Others need a little push."

Related: I'm no 'anchor baby,' I'm Michele Cantos -- and I'm giving back

She's also testified before the Denver school board about immigration issues and has supported local laws that are supportive of immigrants. She educates the community about their rights, seeks signatures for petitions and registers people to vote. She's even spoken to Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman's staff to request that Colorado join states like California in support of President Obama's executive action.

yanely gonzalez with dog
Gonzalez loves animals and is currently an intern at a veterinarian's office in Denver.

When Gonzalez isn't volunteering with the voter drive, she is doing school work or at her internship in a veterinary office.

"I love animals and I'll be studying to be a veterinarian. I was looking at Colorado State University," she said. "Since I was a little kid I've always been passionate about animals, and now I think that I should tackle this as a career."

Gonzalez is currently applying for scholarships to pay for college, but her efforts in the community won't stop.

As for her upcoming vote, she says she'll cast her ballot for candidates who are for comprehensive immigration reform.

"I will remember the people who spoke about Latinos in a racist and hateful way," she said. "Our country was founded on the principles of justice and equality."

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