Effort to Open Voting to Illegal Immigrants Underway in NYC

Immigrant Citizen New Voters AP Mark Avery
AP/Mark Avery

Immigration activists are pushing for illegal immigrants to be granted the right to vote in New York City and say legislation to that effect could be introduced later this year.

The New York Post reports that a proposal to extend voting rights to illegal immigrants, allowing them to vote in elections for city-wide offices, was highlighted at a Black and Latino Legislative Caucus event.

“We want to expand the right to vote for everybody, not suppress the vote. What a radical idea,” Bertha Lewis, head of the Black Institute, said according to the Post. The Post notes she said they expect such legislation to be introduced in the spring.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has made extensive efforts on behalf of illegal immigrants, including offering a city identification card. According to the Post, Lewis said she sees the extension of voting rights as part of that effort.

“People want to come out of the shadows,” Lewis said, according to the paper.

As the Post notes, a number of years ago there was an effort to extend voting rights to legal non-citizen residents. The bill, which as introduced by Queens Councilman Dan Dromm and co-sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, never received a vote.

Lewis has had conversations with legislators including Viverito, Dromm and Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, among others, about expanding rights to illegal aliens.

A Viverito spokesman noted that the council supports extending voting rights to green-card holders, but he stopped short Sunday of saying she would back voting rights for illegal immigrants.

Williams, however, endorsed the proposal.

“There will be a lot of support for it in the City Council. We want people to participate in civic life and be invested in what happens. It will lead to a healthier community,” said Williams.

While activists appear enthusiastic about the idea, Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told the Post that extending rights to illegal immigrants is “outrageous,” telling the paper, “American Citizens have the right to determine the destiny of towns, villages, cities, states and the country.”


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