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DC to Allow Non-Citizens Incl. Illegals to Vote After 30 Days
Peggy Sands Orchowski -- Immigration Expert Peggy Sands Orchowski -- Immigration Expert
Washington, DC
Monday, October 24, 2022


DC To Allow Non-citizens Incl, Illegals To Vote After 30 Days

By Peggy Sands Orchowski                  

DC's liberal city council has carried equity and inclusion way to far, many citizens feel including the Washington Post and especially naturalized citizens.  On Wednesday Oct. 19 DC's council voted 12-1 to allow all non-citizens to vote in local elections. That includes unauthorized migrants (aka illegal or "undocumented" migrants). And they only have to reside in the District for just 30 days or more.  It's historic, unique in the USA.  And it's dead wrong. Even the Washington Post editorial board disapproved. And perhaps the angriest are those immigrants who went through the long process to become naturalized citizens – so they could vote!


Anyone who attends a naturalization ceremony is almost overwhelmed with the joy of the new citizens, noted the Washington Post in an editorial on Oct. 18.  They swear to be loyal to the United States. They swear off allegiances to any "foreign potentates" and their interests.  One of the first things most new citizens do, is register to vote as they leave the swearing in ceremony. "My parents became citizens so that they could vote," Harry Medrano a lifetime DC resident echoed what many others say in objecting to the new law.


"This newspaper has opposed efforts over the past decade to rewrite the election code so green-card holders could vote," stated the Washington Post in a Oct. 18 top-of-the-page editorial.  President Clinton signed a law in 1996 that bans non-citizens from voting in federal contests. But a few communities like Tacoma Park Maryland has allowed permanent legal residents (aka green card holders) to vote in local elections. Even that was declared unconstitutional in New York State when the City tried to pass such a law. But DC has informally allowed it. 


"The intent is to give people, whether they are citizens or not, more say over their lives," Juan Ulloa a board members of the DC Latino Caucus said.  "Non citizens here, pay taxes, contribute to the economy and our way of life. Yet the decisions being made on the money they have no say on it."  


"We decided the right to vote should be expanded," Brooke Pinto (31), Georgetown's city councilwoman in the midst of her first term, said. Some 50,000 non citizens would be eligible in DC.  But that doesn't count recent arrivals (some 7000 mainly young men from Venezuela, bussed here from Texas this summer).  It may however include foreign students, visiting scholars, thousands of embassy representatives, businessmen and the like who are temporarily residing in the district.  "I doubt few would vote," said Pinto, "even if they had the right to".


So questions abound.  Many elections include local and federal contests. How in our messy registration and voter system would any community distinguish between the non-citizen and the citizen voter at the ballot box?  Even the US census is not allowed to collect information about how many citizens live in a district (only foreign born are counted). 


 DC Councilwoman Mary Cheh (Ward 3) the only elected official to vote against the bill, expressed concerns that new arrivals should be eligible to vote after only 30 days.  It can be asked how many taxes such recent arrivals have paid? How much could they know about local issues in order to cast a vote rooted in attachment and engagement on issues where substantial DC property and income tax payer money is to be committed?


"Such questions are rooted in xenophobia and racism", said Abel Amene Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America. 


"Some progressives hope that reshaping the electorate will allow them to reshape local politics, prodding the city further to the left on issues such as rent control and spending on social programs," wrote the Washington Post.  "Sponsors of the bill are rushing to get it enacted so the 30-day review period for Congress to overturn the law will expire before the Republicans likely takeover the House in January," the Washington Post editorial claimed


Better might be efforts to support more migrants to come in legally on green cards, to become citizens after five years so they can vote (no one is required to become a citizen and there is no automatic citizenship for anyone not born in the country; still, currently the majority of green card holders do not become citizens or may wait decades to do so).  But that would require Congress to pass a bipartisan law.   

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Name: Peggy Sands Orchowski
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