Permanent residents or with work permits and “dreamers” will be able to participate for the first time in local elections
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New York became the first major city in the United States on December 9 to pass a bill that would allow foreigners to live legally in the city. vote for the first time in local elections, a right that has been claimed for years by pro-immigrant organizations.
In a historic vote that was held at the town hall, the City Council approved by 33 votes in favor, 14 against and 2 abstentions the so-called “Intro 1867” proposal, after a long debate in which representatives of both parties expressed their reluctance to some of the more controversial aspects of the initiative.
“Today we are beginning to write a new chapter in New York history … giving our immigrants the power to go to the polls,” said the councilor. Ydanis Rodrguez, the main promoter of the proposal, before dedicating his vote “to all the immigrants who come to this city to do just one thing, to work hard. Yes you can.”
It is estimated that close to 800,000 immigrants with permanent legal residence, work permit or beneficiaries of the DACA plan known as “dreamers” will be able to benefit from this measure that will allow them to participate in the elections for mayor, councilors and other public officials such as the ombudsman or the fiscal of accounts.
We will have to wait until 2023 for immigrants to start voting, since a period is now open for the Board of Elections to present a plan to establish the voter registration and the requirements to go to the polls. According to the current text, it will be necessary for immigrants to have resided at least 30 days in the city to vote.
The measure, which does not include the right to vote in state or federal elections, has been rejected by the opposition, which has already threatened to challenge it in court. “Someone who has been living for 30 days will be able to decide on the direction of our city or how we manage our taxes,” lamented the Republican councilor, Joseph Borelli.
The outgoing mayor of the city, Bill de Blasio, has expressed his reservations to the proposal, claiming that only state authorities have the authority to legislate on this matter, although he has made it clear that he should not veto the new law before handing over command to the next mayor, Eric Adams, who has shown his support for the “Intro 1867” proposal.
Organizations such as the New York Immigration Coalition celebrated the approval of the new law after years fighting to extend the right to vote to foreign residents who, they recall, raise their children in the city’s public schools and contribute to the local economy with their taxes.
“This legislation will mark the beginning of the largest grant of voting rights to New Yorkers in more than a century and marks a bold step in the fight to protect and expand democracy,” said its executive director, Murad Awaedeh. “New York is once again a role model for other cities and counties in the country,” he added.
The Big Apple thus joins a dozen other small municipalities in the country that allow people who do not have US citizens to vote in their local elections, including nine cities in the state of Maryland and two in Vermont, while since 2018 in San Francisco they can only participate in elections for the school board.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism