July 26, 2007
Written by C.N.
One of the basic benefits of being a U.S. citizen is that it gives you the privilege of being able to vote in elections. However, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, in many localities around the country, there is a small but growing movement to extend the right to vote to non-citizen immigrants, which not surprisingly, involves strong opinions on both sides:
Supporters argue that non-citizens are long-term residents who care about the same local issues that citizens do: good schools, safe streets, reliable trash collection. Many pay taxes. Some are US military veterans. “They’re living there, they have their kids in school, they’re working, they’re contributing to the local economy,” says Kathleen Coll, a cultural anthropologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. “They’re full, complete local citizens [who are] affected by local policies.” . . .
Some advocates want to limit voting rights to legal immigrants who intend to become citizens but haven’t completed the process. Because naturalization takes on average eight years, the Migration Policy Institute reports, parents could see their 10-year-old graduate from high school before having a say in the public school system. . . .
But enfranchising non-citizens would unfairly dilute the strength of citizens’ votes, says one critic, Steve Cameron, director of research at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. . . . For opponents, reviving the practice is just another step in accommodating unnecessary – and sometimes unlawful – immigrants.
As you see, the debate around the merits of immigration — legal and illegal — are still raging in this country. If you’re familiar with any of my previous postings, you already know that I strongly support immigrant rights — legal and illegal. With that in mind, it won’t come as a shock to hear that I strongly support these efforts to give non-citizens the right to vote — provided that they are legal immigrants, however.
I completely support the argument that the most important factor in deciding who gets to vote should be whether a person contributes to the cultural, political, and economic strength of the country, not whether a person happens to be born inside the U.S. or not.
In that sense, a non-citizen immigrant who pays federal, state, and sales taxes, spends almost all of his/her income in the U.S., obeys its laws, etc. should have at least as much of a right to vote than someone who is too lazy to get an education, skips paying taxes, and is constantly engaging in criminal activity, but happens to be born in the U.S.
To paraphrase the great Martin Luther King, Jr., what should matter is not the country in which you were born, but by the content of your deeds and actions while in the U.S.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Allowing Non-Citizens to Vote" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/07/allowing-non-citizens-to-vote/> ().
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