New York City’s bill allowing non-citizens to vote is in effect and opinions are expectedly based on political affiliation.
Pro-immigration/undocumented activists and labor unions praised the new law (Into. 1867 ) passed by the New York City Council in December while conservative politicians have vowed to kill the bill before it leaves its mark on city politics.
What will New York City Mayor Eric Adams do with the bill? Keep it.
In a statement released last Saturday, the mayor said, “I believe that New Yorkers should have a say in their government, which is why I have and will continue to support this important legislation. While I initially had some concerns about one aspect of the bill, I had a productive dialogue with my colleagues in government that put those concerns at ease. I believe allowing the legislation to be enacted is by far the best choice, and look forward to bringing millions more into the democratic process.”
Intro. 1867 would, according to the bill, “provide a process for individuals in New York City who are lawful permanent residents or are authorized to work in the United States to vote in municipal elections.” It would essentially allow noncitizens to vote.
Adams’ comments on the bill, which went into effect Jan. 9, have ruffled a few feathers.
The head of the NY GOP isn’t happy with the bill. This week, the New York State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy and several other GOP elected officials filed a lawsuit in Richmond County to block non-citizens from voting. According to Langworthy, this is only the beginning.
“We vowed to use every legal tool in our arsenal to block this unconstitutional and un-American law, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” stated Langworthy in an emailed statement. “The law is clear and the ethics are even clearer: we shouldn’t be allowing citizens of other nations to vote in our elections, full stop. We are only two weeks into the Adams administration and he is already kowtowing to the radical City Council. This lawsuit is the only thing that will stop them from their ultimate goal of eradicating all the lines between citizens and non-citizens.”
Not to be outdone, Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella said that voting is a privilege and an obligation and the undocumented should not have that privilege.
“The right to vote is one of our most sacred privileges and obligations,” stated Fossella in an email. “Last night, legislation became law that makes a total mockery of the concept of American citizenship. Allowing 800,000 non-citizens, including those who have been here for less than 30 days, to vote in local elections is a slap in the face of every single American citizen, whether born or naturalized. This unconstitutional act cheapens what it means to be a citizen and is an insult to every immigrant who has followed the law, taken citizenship classes and swore an oath to our nation. That is why, as promised, today we are filing suit to challenge this law.”
Bills allowing non-citizens to vote have received pushback nationally by conservatives. At the same time that the law passed through the New York City Council, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill (the Protecting Our Democracy by
Preventing Foreign Citizens from Voting Act) that would prohibit all non-citizens from voting and federal funds for cities that allow them to do so. In a statement, he referred to New York and other states’ laws that are pro noncitizens voting as “ridiculous.”
But activists and local council members praised the bill and praised the council in its fight for immigrant rights. They said they would not be deterred by conservative efforts to kill the law.
While the AmNews couldn’t contact those involved, members of the Our City, Our Vote coalition, a group of activists and local politicians who collectively pushed for the bill, the New York Immigration Coalition, United Neighborhood Homes and labor activists like UNITE HERE Local 100 and One Fair Wage made their voices heard after the legislation was passed and signed by former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.
Council Member Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Committee on Immigration, celebrated the bill’s passing in late December. He said that opponents of the bill are spreading misinformation and are engaging in fear-mongering.
“They are wrong. Under our legislation, only those who have work authorization and have some immigration status under federal law can vote in our local elections,” stated Menchaca. “These are individuals like Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who worked as essential healthcare workers during the pandemic or Haitian New Yorkers with Temporary Protective Status who work hard and pay taxes. The law and justice are on our side.”
“This is a city of immigrants, and New Yorkers deserve a voice in their city representatives and the policies that will shape their lives,” added New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “I’m grateful to the elected officials and advocates who have worked on this issue for so long, and that even as some states work to strip voting rights from communities of more color, our city joins others across the nation who already have restored this right and expanded democracy.”
Murad Awawdeh, executive director, New York Immigration Coalition, stated, “This legislation will usher in the largest enfranchisement of New Yorkers in more than a century and marks a bold step forward in the fight for protecting and expanding democracy.”
This week, however, New York State senators passed a slew of bills to make voting easier. Some of these bills include S.4658 (sponsored by State Sen. Kevin Parker) that will designate polling places on college campuses under certain circumstances, S.758B (sponsored by State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi) which extends the legislation that allows people to use COVID as an excuse for absentee voting in elections, and S.492 (sponsored by State Sen. Brad Hoylman) that allows local Boards of Elections to establish absentee drop-off locations.
“Voting and access to the polls are the building blocks of our democracy,” stated Parker. “My bill establishing polling sites on college campuses lays a foundation for some of our newest voters and begins the habit of participation in our representative government.”
Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., the executive director at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY said, in a statement, that voter rights are under attack and that these bills fight against a backlash from those who want to push back the movement created in 2020 to elect Joe Biden to the presidency.
“These measures, which impact Black Americans, other voters of color, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities the most, make it nearly impossible for vulnerable voters to exercise their fundamental right at the ballot box,” stated Favors.