Friday, January 19, 2007

Everyone Else Is Voting, So Why Can’t We?

In a city with such a strong progressive presence in the halls of power, and with such a verdant immigrants’ rights movement, why does L.A. have no progressive movement to extend the vote to non-citizen immigrants?

New York City used to allow non-citizens the right to vote in school board elections (until citizen-elected school boards were disbanded in 2002). Chicago still allows all community residents and parents of children in schools, regardless of citizenship, to vote in school council elections. San Francisco, in 2004, voted on a ballot measure that would’ve allowed parents of all children in the San Francisco school system to vote in school board elections, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status (it narrowly failed).

Where’s L.A.’s movement for immigrant suffrage?

It makes sense, folks. Not only does it make sense in school board elections (the more parents take an interest in the workings of the LAUSD, the better off the LAUSD will be, and thus, the better off L.A. will be). It makes sense in all local elections. Non-citizen immigrants pay taxes here, they own homes and small businesses here, they employ and are employed here, they consume L.A.’s water and power, they utilize L.A.’s transit systems, they drive on L.A.’s roads.

They deserve a say in L.A.’s governance. Why is no one saying so?

Here's a guess why: Antonio Villaraigosa.

See, Antonio Villariagosa wants to be governor some day. Perhaps president some day after that. What are his chances if he's known as the guy who let immigrants vote in his city? Slim. And he knows it. So he'd be very, very wary of supporting an immigrant suffrage law in Los Angeles. Which is something that L.A.'s progressive community and immigrants rights community also knows. So the question is this: are L.A.'s influential progressives and immigrants rights folks willing to push the mayor to do something that he doesn't want to do?

To do so is to risk remanding yourself outside of the mayor's big tent o' progressives (out with the Bus Riders' Union and the South Central Farmers). But to not do so is to miss an opportunity to improve the lives of L.A.'s immigrant community.

Which is worse?


Blogger Dave said...

I consider myself progressive but I don't necessarily consider extending the right to vote to illegal immigrants as being progressive. It might make sense in school board elections, sure.

But I really feel like it's a fundamentally wrong idea to allow illegal immigrants to vote in general. Sure they may pay sale taxes and similar but if you ain't paying income tax, you don't have the right to decide what to do with our tax base.

Besides that, our legal system's credibility would be sorely tested by the paradox of having illegal immigrants voting. Really. Non-citizens voting. Really? Really??

11:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

That's a common misconception, Dave, that non-citizens aren't paying, or aren't required to pay, income tax.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

Lisa is right. Check this 2004 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

9:23 AM  

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