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City May Allow Illegal Immigrants To Vote

One U.S. city has decided that they want to embrace diversity. They want to embrace it so much that they're debating whether or not to extend the privilege of voting to all residents, regardless of citizenship. This would allow undocumented immigrants to vote in local elections.

College Park, Maryland officials are debating the measure that would give voting rights to all in local elections. Undocumented immigrants, green card holders and conditional residents could be allowed to vote in local elections, such as city council elections, school board presidents, judges, county clerk, municipal services and local laws.

Non-citizens would not be allowed to vote in federal elections, such as for governors, congressmen, senators or President.

The move to give non-American citizens voting rights in the liberal city came as a backlash to President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on immigration violations. The city will have to amend their charter in order to pave the way for the new voters.

College Park wouldn't be the first city that allows noncitizens the right to vote in local elections. It's not even the first city in Maryland. Takoma Park, Hyattsville, Somerset and a few others have already passed legislation to give voting rights to all residents.

“These are folks who have a significant stake in our community, and who rely on the facilities in our city,” said Councilwoman Christine Nagle. “To me, it just made sense.”

Nagle is sponsoring the measure, and trying to garner support. The policy analyst for the immigration advocacy group CASA is also pushing for support. Julio Murillo tells the Baltimore Sun, "Whenever you open up elections to noncitizens, what you’re really doing is sending a strong message that you celebrate your diversity... You start to develop and encourage a practice of civic engagement. That transcends generations.”

Arun Ivatury notes that many non-citizens pay property taxes, own businesses or fight in the military, yet they are not allowed to vote even in municipal elections.

“There is something seriously unfair about this,” said Ivantury, a 12-year resident of the city.

There's still a lot of opposition to the bill, even by those who are generally supportive of immigration. “I’m kind of torn. I sit on the fence. I kind of see both sides,” resident Dan Blasburg says. “The hang-up I have is nonresidents of the city having a say in what happens with regards to city politics and what goes on. And I don’t know how to rectify that.”

City Councilwoman Mary C. Cook doesn't support the measure. "On a personal level, I do not agree that noncitizens should be voting."

The councilwoman is open to listening to arguments before making up her mind.

Jeff Werner, an advocate for Help Save Maryland, a group that advocates restrictions on immigration, doesn't believe undocumented immigrants should have the right to vote. “What gives them that privilege?” Werner asked.

Werner believes that legal immigrants should have a voice in their communities, but that voice should not extend to the right to go into a voting booth.

Many immigrants are afraid to even fight for voting rights at this time. Antonia Surco, a 65-year-old woman from Peru who is working towards obtaining citizenship, tells the Baltimore Sun, "The community is scared of getting involved...Politically, on the federal level, we are facing a crisis in the community."

Source: The Baltimore Sun, WTOP
Photo: CALI4BEACH/Flickr

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