Photo: Fernando Martínez / Impremedia
This Thursday there was reasons to celebrate in the Plaza de Corona, in Queens, in the heart of one of the neighborhoods of the Big Apple that is mainly made up of immigrant communities, since the Municipal Council reached a majority agreement to approve the law 1867 that will allow those who have a permanent residence card (‘Green Card’) or a work permit, vote in municipal electoral processes to choose local authorities.
The coalition Our City, Our Vote (OCOV) made up of more than 60 community-based organizations and defense of the rights of immigrants, which have been pushing this legal initiative for decades, calculate that the initiative will give a “voice and vote” to at least one million immigrants who are not yet US citizens.
“We are close to overcoming years of injustice. In times of pandemic recovery it is very exciting to know that our local legislators are only one step away from build more democracy and give thousands of immigrants who work, own small businesses and pay millions in taxes in future elections. Now, they will have a voice in the course of this city, which is also his, ”he said. Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigrant Coalition (NYIC).
City Council President Corey Johnson and 34 councilors, reached an agreement to give the green light to the approval of the preliminary project introduced by the Dominican councilor Ydanis Rodríguez in January 2020, which would expand the right to vote for legal residents in New York City, an option that until now only citizens have it.
“It is clear that in a city of immigrants, now thousands will be taken into account for elections where local leadership is at stake, close to people. But it is necessary to clarify, not for presidential elections or of representatives to the Congress. This is a great achievement for our communities ”, clarified Rodríguez.
The councilman of Dominican origin highlighted that the sponsors of the new norm about to be approved are attached to constitutional mandates that establish that in electoral processes of local character such as elections for mayors, comptrollers, county presidents, public defenders, and city councils, each city has the power to adapt their electoral codes.
Deciding on the future of NYC
The councilor of Ecuadorian origin, Francisco Moya, one of the sponsors of the bill, shared that the advancement of this law has a special significance also for elected leaders of immigrant parents, Well, remember that in 2011 when he was elected as an assemblyman, not even his own parents could go to vote for him.
“I am proud to have worked on this law and to be part of a legislative majority that will soon give a voice to millions of immigrants who they will be able to decide about the future of our city ”, emphasized the legislator.
The Ecuadorian Milagros Zabala, 55, a resident of Corona, said that being a permanent legal resident, she has worked “tirelessly” knocking “door to door” in campaigns where candidates have competed that she feels can make a positive move for vulnerable communities. But it has always stayed with the frustration of not adding your vote.
“We have thousands here who for some reason have complicated their path to citizenship, or simply prefer to be just residents, but they have their papers and pay their taxes. That opinion is important, but in the case of Hispanics, hopefully it will be an encouragement to participate. Look at what we achieved by having minority representatives on the Council, ”Zabala said.
It’s not the first time
The vote of immigrants has precedent in New York City and in other cities of the country. Before World War I, immigrants in many states could vote in local, state, and even congressional elections, even when the women and blacks couldn’t do it.
And in New York City, until the entire system changed in 2002, residents could vote and be part of the local school boards.
Staunch critics of this legislation have argued that this step would devalue citizenship by eliminating one of its distinctive benefits.
The Councilor for the Republican Minority Council Joe Borelli, who represents partes de Staten Island, he has argued that “the serious thing” is to raise this issue to the voters in a referendum.
Meanwhile, the councilor Kalman Yeger de Brooklyn has questioned that “it is not progressive to tell legal residents of the United States that citizenship has no value.”
“We should encourage legal residents to become citizens, surely we should not tell them not to bother to become citizens of the largest democracy in the history of the world “, he stressed in some debates collected by local media.
- 30 days at least living in the city of New York must have the people to qualify, register and vote according to the reform to this electoral statute of the city.
- 1,000,000 approximately of permanent residents and work permit recipients live in the Big Apple’s five counties according to OCOV data.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.