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Corruption Chronicles

Voting Rights For Illegal Immigrants

A major U.S. county that has long offered illegal immigrants official sanctuary wants to join a handful of others around the nation in granting them voting privileges reserved for American citizens.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors wants immigrants who don’t have voting rights to cast ballots in school board elections if their children attend public schools in the northern California county. The president of the county’s Board of Supervisors, David Chiu, introduced the legislation this week.

The former president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Matt Gonzales, introduced a similar law six years ago but voters in the famously liberal California city by the bay narrowly rejected it. However, nearly half (49%) of the voters approved it and city leaders believe it will pass the second time around. They claim that one-third of the households with children in public schools is headed by parents who aren’t citizens.

Allowing them to vote in the Board of Education races would increase their involvement in their children’s education, Chiu says, and that in turn will “improve the quality of schools.” His recently introduced charter amendment is virtually identical to the 2004 proposal, which came dangerously close to being enacted.

Promoted as a “modest experiment in democracy”, that measure guarantees to empower the immigrant parents of children—many of them U.S.-born anchor babies—attending San Francisco public schools to have a say on how their children are educated. After all, immigrant voting has a long history that includes states and territories allowing the practice from 1776 to 1926, according to the San Francisco law’s authors.

It’s still illegal for non U.S. citizens to vote in federal or statewide elections, though a handful of jurisdictions around the country have passed measures to allow it in local contests. They include municipalities in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. Under the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, federal authorities can deport an alien who falsely claims to be a citizen in order to vote.

 


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