From: Richard Nuñez-Lawrence
Subject: Racism Is Charged of Opponents of Voting Rights for Noncitizens
Date: Tuesday, September 9, 2008, 8:08 AM
Racism Is Charged of Opponents of Voting Rights for Noncitizens
By GRACE RAUH, Staff Reporter of the Sun September 8, 2008
In advance of the 2009 citywide elections, a coalition of immigrant and advocacy organizations is reigniting a fight to give noncitizens the right to vote in municipal elections, drawing the ire of opponents who argue that voting is a right for American citizens only.
At a rally outside City Hall yesterday organized by the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, supporters of a City Council bill that would extend voting rights to 1.3 million noncitizen New Yorkers said it's unfair that immigrant residents pay more than $18 billion in state income taxes when they can't vote for their representatives. The group is planning to pressure elected officials to back the legislation, which has been on file for more than two years but hasn't moved forward.
A supporter of the bill, Council Member Robert Jackson of Harlem, said in his district alone there are about 40,000 people who are paying taxes and don't have the right to vote. He said the coalition needed to publicize the position of every council member on the proposal and the reasons for their stances.
He suggested that those opposed to giving noncitizens the right to vote might be motivated by racism, and noted that in the early years of American history noncitizens were allowed to vote. That ended after World War I.
"This was the law in the United States of America for many, many years and why don't they support it now? Is it what somebody said earlier — because if you look at the skin complexion of the immigrants now they are mainly people of color versus 100 years ago, when they mainly were white," he said. "These are questions that people have to start asking."
The question of whether noncitizens should be allowed to vote has surfaced in the city within the past few years, but has never gained sufficient momentum among the city's elected officials. Supporters of the plan said yesterday that they aim to capitalize on the attention that will be paid to the 2009 municipal elections, when every citywide office will be up for grabs, as well as 36 council seats.
Noncitizens in New York with children in public school had been allowed to vote in school board elections until the boards were abolished in 2002.
Any campaign to extend voting rights to noncitizens would be expected to face fierce opposition from the mayor and other council members who have held back their support from the bill.
A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, Stuart Loeser, wrote in an e-mail message yesterday that the mayor "is superlatively pro-immigration and vehemently disagrees with those who demonize immigrants to score cheap points, but he believes just as strongly that the right to vote is a privilege and a responsibility for citizens only."
The Republican leader of the council, James Oddo of Staten Island, said it's a ridiculous idea to allow noncitizens to vote, and that supporters of the council bill should be using their energy to help noncitizens become citizens.
"Citizenship is a privilege that gives birth to certain rights and included in that is the ability to vote in these elections," he said. Mr. Oddo said he'd rather focus on "aggressively weeding out" the noncitizens who have registered to vote.
"To me, that's unacceptable," he said.
Commentary by J. Reyes-Montblanc
I find it alarming and offensive that serious people are so confused as to what constitute civil rights and even more so about what is racism.
As a foreign-born American I am offended and feel dishonored by the attempts to give non-citizens the vote.
I came to United States with a permanent resident visa, I served honorably in the US Marine Corps and obtained my citizenship in one of the proudest moments of my life.
The efforts to equate legal resident and illegal aliens to be the same kind of immigrants is in and by itself obsene and un-american. The efforts to grant voting rights to non-citizens is an outrage.
The day that "citizenship" becomes irrelevant is the the day when Americans will cease to be Americans. Beign an American is a state of mind: learn our national language English; learn the history of our country and make it part of your experiences; say in your heart and mind "I am American and the American people are my people" It does not take anything away on the contrary it adds to your personality and being without losing your basic identity.
Most of all the legal residents who are non-citizens qualify for US citizenship but do not accept it as they do not really intend to become one of the many but want their cake and eat it too. Illegal aliens should not be consider in any way as equal to legal immigrants for a basic concept of "common law" is that an illegal cannot result in a legal benefit, something that the "progressives" promoting these ideas do not recognize.
No one who is not a citizen of the United States has the right to vote regardless of how much taxes they suppossedly pay to the municipality, the state or Federal governments.
Instead of this travesty of giving the vote to non-citizens efforts should go into encouraging and facilitating their becoming US Citizens the same as untold millions of other, me included, have done through the years.
I beesech those elected officials, many of them personal friends of mine to cease and desist and rethink the objective which is to encourage those qualified to become US Citizens.