It means something to be an American citizen.
At least it should.
Every year, the Herald and other news outlets cover naturalization ceremonies, where throngs of immigrants are sworn in as new citizens. Many come from war torn countries, or nations ravaged by internal conflicts and economic deprivation. They raise their right hands, take the oath, and wave small American flags with pride.
And they can now reap the rewards: They are protected from deportation, their children have citizenship, they can bring over other family members, they’re eligible for government jobs, and most important, they now have the right to vote.
They earned it.
But in Massachusetts, where illegal immigrants can get a drivers license, there are calls to give legal immigrants the right to vote and bypass the citizenship process. It’s not so much a case of earning the right, as being entitled to it.
As the Herald reported, Boston City Councilors are laying out a plan to allow immigrants with legal status to vote in municipal elections.
“Non-citizens with legal status live here,” said Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune. “They participate in our schools, pay taxes, are members of this body politic and should be able to exercise their right to vote on the matters that matter most to them.”
Legal immigrants do pay taxes and participate in civic life. But the right to vote is not a participation trophy. Legal immigrants can go on to become legal citizens, just as millions have done before them.
Citizenship brings many rights, but there are also responsibilities, among them obeying federal, state, and local laws. Unfortunately, in this political climate, laws are to be ignored or outmaneuvered.
Currently, 15 municipalities allow non-citizens to vote, Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune said, including New York City and San Francisco. There are over 30 states that allow open carry without a permit, but one doesn’t see Massachusetts clamoring to be part of this group.
If Boston allows non-citizen voting, upwards of 40,000 immigrants would be able to vote in local elections, speakers estimated.
The notion that they might vote for the people who handed them the right to do so is completely coincidental.
Progressives have the wind at their backs here. There was the recent successful council vote to lower the municipal election voting age to 16 and the aforementioned drivers licenses for illegal immigrants legislation.
The notion that the voting move would have to get through the Legislature is seen not as part of the process, but as a hindrance to be surmounted.
“Just based on how unsuccessful some home rule petitions have been up at the State House, if there is a way to do this by city ordinance, I would like to move that forward,” said Councilor Gabriela Coletta. “If there is a will to do this in the city, we should move forward without getting any permission from the state.”
Why follow the rules when you can make your own?
That’s not good governance, nor good citizenship.