Pro: Yes to non-citizen voting

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Nov. 14, 2010 at 5:14 a.m.

Once the government issues permanent residents their green card, they're authorized to live and work in the United States for an indefinite period of time.

Permanent residents pay federal and state taxes, own homes, and often become heavily involved in their communities.

But even though they live with the same rights afforded any other U.S. citizen, they're denied voting rights in local, state, and federal elections.

Moreover, if a non-citizen votes in a U.S. election where the local municipality has not granted authorization, the permanent resident could be fined, jailed, even deported.

"I don't think that's right," Benny Martinez, Texas League of United Latin American Citizens District 10 director, said. "Seems to me if they're here legally, paying taxes and don't plan to go anywhere, they should have every right to vote."

Ron Hayduk, political science professor for the City University of New York, and author of "Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the U.S." said the historical foundations of immigrant voting in the U.S. are "as American as apple pie."

In 1848, declarant alien suffrage allowed immigrants to vote in the U.S. as long as they declared their intent to become citizens, Hayduk explained.

"Essentially, immigrants voting in this country is older than some of our national pastimes; it's older than baseball," he said. He further explained that U.S. citizenship wasn't always married to voting rights in the U.S., as it was once refused to African-Americans who were born and raised within national borders.

The laws surrounding immigrant voting tightened in the 1920s during the third wave of major immigration to the U.S.

Currently, a handful of states have approved non-citizen voting in local elections, including Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota and Illinois.

In 1995, Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, introduced legislation in Texas that would grant local municipalities the option of approving or denying non-citizen voting. The bill failed to gain support.

After weighing the argument, Victoria resident Jasmine Buckner, 19, said she agrees permanent residents should be given the right to vote.

"I think they should because they do everything we do here, and should be allowed the same rights," she said. "If they're going to stay here and work here, why not?"



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