News Report: Boston’s non-citizen voting issue

News Report: Boston’s non-citizen voting issue. The Boston City Council is contemplating extending voting rights to legal non-US citizens. In a proposal made by Andrea Campbell, the Council President, the move is meant to make elections within the city more inclusive. Such will see migrants with legal status in the US gain the right to vote in municipal elections.

Individuals who will gain the right to vote despite being non-US citizens include visa holders, those under DACA or Temporary Protected Status, as well as legal permanent residents (Duggan and Parr, 2018).

In ordering for a later hearing to focus on the issue, Campbell noted that the Boston area has over 190,000 residents who are foreign born and this is representative of 28 percent of the population. The orders also state that the non-US citizens contribute to large amount of taxes with an example being 116 million dollars in local and state taxes that came from a spending of over 3.4 billion dollars in 2015 (AP, 2018). In citing this contribution to local and state taxes, Campbell denotes the fact that non-US citizens are a vital part of Boston’s development and should therefore have a right to vote. The president is alluding to the notion of taxation without representation.

Some residents have welcomed the news wholly and see it as a way to have their voices heard at a time when President Trump is instituting strict immigration policies. In an interview on one of the locals, Kate Upkin a resident of Boston and immigrant from Ireland noted that she has lived within Boston for almost 15 years. ‘I have been in Boston for almost 15 years, taken part in community engagements, paid taxes, yet I cannot choose my representation’ (Interview 1). For Upkin, the proposal by Campbell is a step in the right direction since this indicates that even non-citizens matter in Boston.  

News Report: Boston’s non-citizen voting issue

While voting is the basis of democracy, the defining of persons eligible to vote has always yielded disagreements and this is no different in Boston. James Ron, a US citizen living in Boston, opines that voting should not be extended to non-citizens since this negates what it means to be American. According to Ron, ‘voting should be a reserve of the American people since it is a privilege of citizenship’ (Interview 2). Ed Flynn, the councilor of Boston City, is equally opposed to the idea and notes that, “the right to vote is a unique characteristic and privilege reserved for those individuals who have gone through the extensive citizenship application process” (Klipa, 2018). With sentiments coming from both sides of the divide, it is still unclear as to the number of representatives and residents opposed and inclined towards the idea.

The proposal by Campbell is not a unique one and neither is it unprecedented in American politics. In an article by Hadyuk (2015) exploring the political rights in the migration age, he notes that, there have been campaigns on the expansion of the voting franchise to non-citizens going as far back as 1990. The campaigns have been rooted on the fact that until the 1920s, non-American citizens in 40 states took part in federal, state, and local elections (Richman, 2014). Further, non-citizens also held public office such as being board members in schools, being a coroner, and as an alderman.

Currently, there are some American cities that allow non-US citizens to take part in the voting process especially in local elections. One of the most notable is Takoma Park in Maryland as well as eight other cities in the state. Cambridge, Amherst, Newton, and Brookline in Massachusetts have at various instances allowed non-citizens to take part in municipal elections. The granting of voting rights to non-citizens come from the large role that they play in communities that they reside.

 In an interview conducted by the author on a political science major from one of the Ivy League colleges, the interviewee noted that such changes show the appreciation of shifting demographic aspects. Pat Irvin noted that ‘policies directed towards increased political participation of non-US citizens are reflective of the large demographic shifts as well as the proliferation of democratic ideals’ (Interview 3). Non-citizens have become of the American fabric and they not only own businesses and pay their taxes but can also be drafted in the US military.

The projection is that there should not be any resistance to allowing non-US citizens to vote especially considering that taxation without representation once informed a revolution.  

With the recent call for the extension of voting rights to non-citizens in Boston, there has been a deluge of anti-immigrant message. Since the announcement by Campbell, there has been an increase in the flurry of anti-immigrant sentiment. In an article by Klipa (2018), several councilors in Boston have reported a rise in the number of calls and emails projecting an anti-immigrant message. Some immigrant advocates have also expressed concern on how the new regulations will impact immigrants. Veronica Serrato, the executive director at Project Citizenship, noted that while the idea is laudable, the benefits are likely to be outweighed by the risks of deportation that individuals will experience (Klipa, 2018). Further, there will be huge logistical and administrative hurdles linked to the implementation of the idea.

The concerns by Serrato are validated by the fact that Trump’s presidency has adopted aggressive policies against immigration. Such has seen the deportation of a large number of immigrants in a period of two years. Sarah Rodriguez, a Mexican immigrant in Boston, notes that the adoption of this regulation will open a Pandora’s Box for immigrants since the administration will increase its agitation towards immigrants (Interview 4). In the interview, Rodriguez noted that this might even lead to the federal government’s withholding of funding for Boston since this is non-aligned to the immigrant policies by Trump.

As local residents wait for the outcome of this proposal, projections are that this will yield both positive and negative outcomes in the short term. Immigrants are especially wary of the backlash that they are likely to receive both from the US citizens as well as the federal government.

Should Boston allow its citizens to participate in local voting this will create a precedence for the increased appreciation of migrants. Upkin notes that, ‘this should be seen as progressive and the re-emergence of the era of no taxation without representation’ (Interview 1). She projects the notion that migrants have been part of the American system and should be appreciated as such since their contributions have been immense.

As America continues to absorb more immigrants and as it undergoes a demographic shift, it is perhaps time to view voting as a norm rather than an exception (Hadyuk, 2015). As opponents try to argue against this idea, its adoption will send a revolutionary message to other states.

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